Warm Bodies (2013)
” Bros before brains.”
Director: Jonathan Levine
Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich
Synopsis: After a highly unusual zombie saves a still-living girl from an attack, the two form a relationship that sets in motion events that might transform the entire lifeless world.
Zombies get a Twilight-style makeover in Warm Bodies (even the title has a fuzzy feel to it), and while it isn’t as unremittingly dull as the movie franchise by which it’s clearly inspired, it does lack bite. When most of us watch a zombie movie we want to see the zombies tearing flesh, but because the producers are clearly aiming at the female teen market, we see nothing particularly horrifying here. To be fair, though, it’s a little while before you realise you’re being short-changed, and director Jonathan Levine does at least manage to engineer a couple of tense sequences between the mostly weak laughs. It’s also a neat twist, having the movie told from the point of view of a zombie, and his wry comments and observations make it easier for the audience to believe in a Romeo and Juliet romance between an undead guy and a living girl.
Nicholas Hoult plays R, a zombie who spends his days roaming the wrecked lounges of his local airport. He remembers little of his pre-zombie life; only that his name began with the letter R. Whenever R gets an attack of the munchies, he teams up with a few fellow zombies to go in search of the living. One day, they catch the scent of a band of teens in search of medical supplies for the fortified city in which they live, and are quick to strike. Curiously, when the zombies in Warm Bodies aren’t shuffling around like typical insensate undead they’re sprinting at frightening speeds like Danny Boyle’s version. One of the teens is a pretty little thing called Julie (Teresa Palmer), whose boyfriend’s brain R is quick to ingest. The thing is when he consumes someone’s brain he doesn’t just absorb their meat but their memories as well, which triggers something off in R so that he is immediately captivated by Julie and spirits her away before she can become dessert on the teen-meat menu.
R takes her to his home, a wrecked airplane on the airport runway. He’s a bit of a magpie, having amassed a fine collection of old vinyl which he plays on an old record player (Lord only knows how he hooked up the power), and these little touches of character slowly persuade the initially terrified Julie that R is more than your average zombie. And he is, because something about her is slowly causing R to re-generate and become a living person again. The trouble is, Julie’s dad (John Malkovich), the chief of the city, is rabidly anti-zombie — which is understandable considering they ate his wife — while in the wasted city, the bonies — skeletal zombies who have degenerated to the point where they have sloughed off their own dead skin — are starting to get a whiff of the rekindled life-force beating within R and an increasing number of other zombies.
Considering the perhaps less-developed critical faculties of its target market, Warm Bodies is nowhere near as bad as it might have been. Nicholas Hoult makes a good job of portraying the incremental transformation of a dead person within whom an ember of life remains, while Teresa Palmer makes a cute love interest and shows a pleasing talent for comedy. The storyline is a loose rehash of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (complete with balcony scene), but there’s a limit to how closely a movie about zombies can adhere to a 500 hundred year old love story, and when the two part company Warm Bodies grows increasingly silly. While it never quite outstays its welcome, it does begin to test our patience in the last reel or so, and we can only hope that no attempt will be made to make a sequel.