A funny new twist on a classic love story, Warm Bodies is a poignant tale about the power of human connection. After a zombie epidemic, R (a highly unusual zombie) encounters Julie (a human survivor), and rescues her from a zombie attack. Julie sees that R is different from the other zombies, and as the two form a special relationship in their struggle for survival, R becomes increasingly more human - setting off an exciting, romantic, and often comical chain of events that begins to transform the other zombies and maybe even the whole lifeless world.
Since the pending zombie apocalypse is hip and in vogue right now, it's only right that zombies should crossover from the horror genre into other types of movies. However, as fashionable as zombies are, can a zombie romantic comedy really work? If Warm Bodies is any indication, the answer is yes.
Warm Bodies stars Nicholas Hoult (Clash of the Titans) as a zombie known only as R (because he can't remember the rest of his name) who, like all of his zombie friends, is destined to spend the post-zombie apocalypse wandering the earth among the legions of the undead. Nearby resides a pack of living people, led by Colonel Grigio (John Malkovich from Con Air), who have built a giant wall for protection from the zombies and only come out when they need supplies of some sort. Grigio's daughter, Julie (I Am Number Four's Teresa Palmer), is part of a group of soldiers who are sent out to retrieve some medicine and accidentally encounter R's group of zombies. R sees Julie and falls in love at first sight; he helps her escape from the other zombies and keeps her safely hidden away in an old disabled airplane where he lives. When R and Julie start having feelings for each other, the other zombies take notice and start to feel emotions that bring them back to life - a fact which angers the Boneys, a group of fully decomposed zombies who "will eat anything with a heartbeat." R has to try to help get Julie back to her people, avoid the Boneys, convince her zombie-hating father that the zombies aren't all bad and, just maybe, live happily ever after.
Needless to say, Warm Bodies is not a typical zombie movie. Written and directed by Jonathan Levine (50/50), it manages to capture all of the trappings of a classic zombie film, but these zombies have heart. It's not even close to a horror film; it does for zombies what the Twilight movies have done for vampires and werewolves - it softens them and makes them vulnerable. The vibe is sort of like Shaun of the Dead, but from the zombies' point of view. It's like the love child between George Romero and John Hughes - a teen movie with half the characters as zombies. It even follows the first rule of modern teen movies; it can be read as a (very) loose retelling of a Shakespeare tale, the one with its own "R" and "Julie" (there's even a balcony scene for those keeping track). At its base value, Warm Bodies is a universal story of star-crossed lovers updated for the current zombie paranoia.
Warm Bodies both reinforces and subverts the zombie stereotype. Levine's zombies are slow moving and lumbering like Romero's zombies, but possess sharp minds and are capable of sentient thought. In fact, the plot in Warm Bodies is driven by Nicholas Hoult's voice over narration, articulating the thoughts that are in R's head that he can't speak, ranging from observations about being a zombie to musings about life, love and happiness. The zombies still hunger for human brains, but they gain access to their victims' memories when they eat them, a plot device that helps R fall for Julie when he eats her boyfriend's brain and learns all about her. All in all, the zombies are sympathetic characters, relatable and misunderstood by the humans. The Boneys are another matter entirely; they represent what every zombie eventually becomes, and are more like Danny Boyle's zombies in 28 Days Later - they're fast, athletic and relentless, and are the true antagonists in the film. Warm Bodies is a different kind of zombie movie, and it features two very different types of zombies.
Jonathan Levine's musical selections in Warm Bodies go a long way in helping to further the story. As funny as it sounds, the sensitive R collects vinyl records and the popular songs that are played throughout the film almost take the place of the cast breaking into song. For example, the first record that R plays is John Waite's "Missing You," letting the audience know that he remembers his former life. When Julie wants to go home to her walled city, R plays "Patience" by Guns N' Roses for her, letting her know that she needs to give it a little time. As she stays with him, safe in his airplane, Bob Dylan's "Shelter from the Storm" drives the feeling home. The zombies get motivated for a battle with the Boneys to the Scorpions' "Rock You Like a Hurricane," psyching themselves up for a fight. Like any good teen flick, the soundtrack music to Warm Bodies acts as an additional character, providing insights and exposition in a subliminal and subconscious way.
February 1, 2013