Warm Bodies Review
by Daniel Rester
I’m a big zombie fan when it comes to horror films, but I must admit I was a bit skeptical going in to see Warm Bodies. This is because it is a zombie film with a romantic twist added to it, toying with the fan-favorite genre. I hoped that the film would not just be a Twilight film with zombies filling in for werewolves and vampires (as some of the ads made it seem). I got what I hoped for, because Bodies is nothing like any of those movies. It has its romance elements invading the horror-sphere like Twilight, but Bodies is much smarter and fresher than those films – though I cannot say it is a complete success.
Bodies follows a zombie named R (Nicholas Hoult). R is not your typical zombie, though. He can think inside (narrating the film), though he can only grunt and spew out a word or two in conversations. Oh, and he still has the desire to munch on human flesh. But R wants to be different, and he miraculously gets that chance when he meets (i.e. eats her boyfriend) Julie (Teresa Palmer). Julie strikes something inside of R, and he suddenly starts to feel things again. But R’s change back into a human isn’t immediate. Julie must learn to cope with him as a zombie as the two try to escape a zombie-laden land. Meanwhile, Julie’s father (played by John Malkovich) seeks to protect a blockaded city – even if it means wiping out zombies that might be turning human again.
Isaac Marion adapted Bodies into a screenplay from his own novel. His inventive ideas are both hit and miss. It’s enjoyable to see Marion want to bring new life to a basic genre, but sometimes he bends it too far. For instance, the idea of a zombie narrating a story and learning to fall in love is fantastic. However, before the zombies are even nearly human again in Bodies, they are already doing things like driving cars and picking out records to play. I also never fully bought the initial romance. What kind of woman would really make out with a zombie-turned-human just days after he ate her boyfriend? No one I know. It’s these kinds of things that occasionally took me out of the film, hanging on to my disbelief. This, to me, is the movie’s major fault.
But despite its mixed writing, Bodies still works for the most part. Much credit is due to director Jonathan Levine, who made the great movie 50/50 back in 2011. Levine really knows how bring warmth and quirky humor to the screen through his direction of actors and handling of certain scenes. Though I kept my disbelief throughout Bodies because of the story elements I mentioned, I always admired the craftsmanship that Levine put into the film. The director captures the apocalyptic setting with a nice eye, never giving it a full-on grunginess, but rather a certain beauty at times. Levine is aided with this by cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe, who uses a terrific variety of shots and makes great use of natural lighting. Levine also keeps the strange, sweet, and funny elements of Marion’s script intact, giving Bodies a welcome freshness at times. Also, the soundtrack to the movie helps keep it alive, featuring songs by such artists as Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Guns N Roses, and M83.
The main attraction of the film is the two leads. Hoult turns R into one of the most intriguing zombies put to screen. His mannerisms and general likability really lend a lot to the movie. Palmer is also sweet and fun as Julie, though I did find her to be a bit too weepy at times. And though I did not fully believe the romance of the two main characters, I can’t deny that these two actors did have strong chemistry together. The rest of the cast also does a fitting job with what screen time they are given. Analeigh Tipton (as Julie’s friend) and Rob Corddry (as R’s zombie “friend”) provide some hilarious moments, while Malkovich adds an effortless presence as Julie’s father.
Bodies offers a change of pace for the zombie genre, but it really works more as a romantic comedy in the end. As for its horror elements, it is actually quite tame – with weak zombie makeup and a lack of scares (it is rated PG-13). The movie is also occasionally slow and it isn’t the most memorable thing in the world. But it trudges through its various problems (mostly the script issues) and ultimately succeeds. Levine’s interesting direction and Hoult and Palmer are really what make the film worthy of a view. Bodies is mostly a pleasant surprise of a movie, and it seems likely that it will become a sleeper hit.
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars (Grade Equivalent for Me: B).