Film Review: Warm Bodies
Forget Twilight. This is how you do a supernatural teen romance. Warm Bodies is a movie whose key to success is not taking itself so seriously. It’s a goofy, cheesy, daft little gem that is sure to achieve cult status with horror fans for its originality and wit.
Sure, life from the perspective of a zombie is nothing new with the likes of Colin and Wasting Away, yet unlike those before it Warm Bodies’ R (portrayed by Nicholas Hoult) gives the audience far deeper insight into the mind of the supposedly mindless. You come to understand R’s loneliness, his struggle to remember details of his life and his jaded nature in being one of the undead (that is perhaps a comment on today’s youth). You won’t have felt this much for a zombie since Day of the Dead’s Bub. What the zombie genre has always emphasized on is either the plight of the survivors, the tragic loss of the transformation from human to zombie or the fun in the millions of inventive ways zombies can be executed. In trying to enter the psyche of the undead, Warm Bodies offers a refreshing spin on the decaying zombie genre that certainly makes it stand out from its rotting crowd of exhausted efforts.
The concept is supported by great writing, including a fresh, deliciously witty script that contains many quotable one-liners (such as when R spots a zombie tearing off his skin to become a ‘bonie’ he thinks to himself “Oh man, gross. Stop, stop! Don’t pick at it. You’re making it worse! This is what I have to look forward to, it’s kind of a bummer.”) that will stay with the audience long after the credits roll. Written as a take on Romeo and Juliet, the movie has thankfully not been too heavy handed in its approach to the classic love story – even in the inevitable spin on the famous ‘balcony scene’.
It’s not just the fantastic script that carries R’s character though. Nicholas Hoult’s wonderfully dry, deadpan portrayal offers a winning pairing to the screenplay. From the excellent line delivery to the awkward, confused stares (particularly funny on discovery of a celebrity magazine with a spread on Kim Kardashian), the balance of jokes and physical comedy works well to bring genuine humour to the saturated world of teen comedy. Rob Corddry also brings great support as R’s best friend, M, particularly with great movement and steely glares that make him one of the funniest undead ever to grace the ‘zomcom’.
Teresa Palmer may come across on occasion as Bella Swan-like, sharing some of the same mannerisms and physical traits of Kristen Stewart, portraying Julie with a world-weariness and hardened heart. Thankfully, any dramatic gestures here are well justified – after all, there is an apocalypse happening. Unfortunately for her, R does steal the show and allows little room for her to share much of her experience of the apocalypse aside from her ex-boyfriend’s occasional memories. Even though Warm Bodies joyously emphasizes the zombies for once, a deeper background of one of the leading protagonists might have made for a more engaging character. The fantastic John Malkovich is definitely underused as Colonel Grigio, and his relationship with daughter Julie should have been explored further.
The cinematography, tinged with hues of cold blues and grey and filtered-style flashback sequences give an almost Hipstamatic-esque grading to the film and brings a youthful edge to the visuals. Yet the visuals are not without fault – the dodgy CGI ‘bonies’ move in an unintentionally clunky and bumbling manner, and are far less intimidating than the zombies themselves despite claiming to be the scarier ones beyond redemption. Whilst the ‘bonies’ are a necessary plot device, they have not been given the same respect and care as the zombies.
Perhaps the first feel-good movie set in an apocalypse, Warm Bodies is a novel, heartfelt and charming effort that explores all the awkwardness of teen romance and amplifies it with inclusion of the undead. With a great script and fabulous performances, it’s a movie zombie fans will surely want to watch again and again. In an industry of serious zombie media, Warm Bodies’ honest silliness brings welcome fresh meat to the genre and offers hope for future undead flicks.