Zombies. The widely-defined zombie genre is one that always feels like it’s in a state of oversaturation, yet time and time again someone finds a way to take the ideas in a different direction, keeping the undead, funnily enough, fresh.
Warm Bodies is yet another, um, stab at the zombie genre. Originally a novel written by Isaac Marion, Warm Bodies has been adapted onto the big screen by 50/50 director Jonathan Levine, who both writes and directs this adaptation. It is told from the perspective of a living corpse, R (Nicholas Hoult), who finds himself falling for a survivor of the recent zombie apocalypse, Julie (Teresa Palmer). Over the course of events, R and Julie are thrown together, and Julie discovers that R isn’t quite the same as the other flesh-eating zombies.
He’s getting better.
The film, like most other zombie movies, has its own rules to how zombies work. The classic debate is slow zombies vs. fast zombies, with some camps known to not recognise one or the other as ‘zombies’. Warm Bodies plays around with the tried and true formulas in many ways and it just works.
For one thing, there is a fair bit of voice-over from R. Traditionally, one would think that a zombie is unable to do any sort of cognition, but straight away we’re told how the rules for these zombie are different. The first few scenes are a nice bout of comedic pace, with R introducing the audience to his best friend M (played by Rob Corddry), who also brings a great bit of comic relief to the film.
If you’re a zombie purist, you may have problems with the way in which zombies work. This film takes things very lightly however, something evident straight away in the things R does, such as operating a record player and operating doors. There is also a very nice explanation as to why and what happens when zombies eat brains, also creating a nice little plot device.
The entire cast shines, and Nicholas Hoult brings yet another great performance, giving the world one of cinema’s most emotive zombies who can help make people feel a spectrum of emotions. John Malkovich appears as Julie’s father (and leader of the survivor’s stronghold), and while he does great as protective father of the pride, one can’t help but wish he were more utilised.
It is all about R and Julie’s chemistry however, and the film actually creates a situation where you want R to somehow get the girl, despite his condition (and the fact that, you know, he ate her previous boyfriend). The film will make you laugh, it will make you care for and sympathise with the characters, and maybe it might even inspire a tear or two. In those regards, it is a resounding success.
There is a slight issue with trying to keep to a tone. The light hearted comedy in a zombie-filled environment works, but on the few occasions the film tries to hit for scares and jumps, it oddly feels out of place. It is as if we are more welcoming to a zombie falling in love with a human than a zombie trying to eat one, and despite that curious issue, Warm Bodies is actually pretty effective.
The soundtrack is great, with a few songs used for nice comedic effect, and the visuals on average work very well, through some mileage may vary when it comes to the CGI creations for the movie. The zombie make-up is subtle and effective. This isn’t exactly The Walking Dead with the effects, but given the tone, it’s all one needs.
Overall, Warm Bodies is a breath of fresh air in the undead genre. It’s one of the first mainstream zombie movies to take a comedic zombie tale in this particular direction, offering the look of the zombie apocalypse from a zombie’s point of view. In a way, it’s like a twisted version of WALL-E: a world where the humans have left behind a world shattered, only for them to have a zombie fall in love and try to show humans that it’s the start of something new.
Very funny, very entertaining, very fresh. It’s a revival that’s welcomed, and it’s a revival that was a nice surprise. One can only wonder where else people can take the zombie genre next, all is for certain is that the genre can never die; instead it shall just continue to walk the earth much like its general mythology.
Unless it falls in love of course.
Warm Bodies is out now in cinemas. It stars Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer, and is written and directed by Jonathan Levine. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Isaac Marion.