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Warm Bodies:  A Guest Movie Review by CarrieS

A-

Title: Warm Bodies (Film)
Written By: Book: Isaac Marion | Screenplay: Jonathan Levine
Publication Info: Summit Entertainment 2013
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

Warm Bodies - link to Kindle book Warm Bodies is a delightful and moving film that succeeds because of its very engaging stars, despite a plot that, while sweet, does not make a ton of logical sense.

The movie is being marketed as a romantic comedy, and it is very funny, but only in a very dark, very understated way.  There were only a couple of moments where I laughed out loud, but there were plenty of things that I was still quietly chuckling over days later.  It's basically a variation on the Beauty and the Beast story, while also being quite overtly a variation on Romeo and Juliet. 

Warm Bodies takes place during the aftermath of a plague of unknown origin that causes the dead to rise as zombies.  R (played by Nicholas Hoult) is a youngish zombie (late teens or early twenties) who spends his time in the company of several other zombies at an otherwise abandoned airport.  You'll be pleased to know that even after the end times, “The white zone is for passenger loading and unloading only”.   R is tormented by having inner thoughts that he can't express, and by longing to make a connection to others.  His one friend is M (Rob Corddry), whose vocabulary is limited to moans and grunts and occasionally a single word.  Meanwhile, the unnamed city's surviving humans live in a walled off section of city under tight security led by General Grigrio (John Malkovich). 

R and some other zombies encounter a group of humans who are foraging beyond the city walls.  They attack them, and R kills one young man but is fascinated by a young woman, Julie (Theresa Palmer).  R saves Julie and takes her to the abandoned airplane where he “lives”.  As R and Julie become closer allies and friends, R begins to change, growing increasingly more human, and setting off complications within zombie and human communities. 

This movie is a hard sell because it's a romance that begins with brain eating, and for reasons that befuddle me a lot of people have almost reflexively compared it to Twilight.  I've no idea where the Twilight comparison comes from except there are teens in love and one is human and one isn't.  This is as un-Twilighty as possible.  What it is, is scary, and sad, and funny, and happy, and touching.  I've heard people say that they won't go see it because it sounds gross, or because teenagers are boring, or because it's actually about necrophilia.  Well, it's not, and they aren't, and it's totally not, so by all means, go see it if you want a quirky, darkly funny, very unusual romance.

The movie has very clever writing, but it really succeeds because the actors sell it.  Nicholas Hoult does an amazing performance as R.  He exudes vulnerability.  You just want to hug him all the time, even when he has brains in his teeth.  His performance is incredibly layered.  In addition to be the most huggable zombie ever, he also has to be determined, and curious, and thoughtful, and creepy, and he has to do most of this without speaking.  Theresa Palmer has a more thankless role as Julie – as far as I can tell, her job is basically to be really loveable.  I did sort of like it that she actually acted like a teenager, not like a saintly adult.  She was tough and she was fragile and she was smart and she did stupid things out of impulsivity.  Even though I didn't always like her that much, she seemed like a real teenage girl might actually be in that situation – impulsive and conflicted and a little bit immature despite having many adult responsibilities.

Any self-respecting romantic comedy features best friends, and the besties in Warm Bodies are great – loyal, funny, and people who clearly have their own stories going on.  Rob Cordrry gets more drama out of a scene in which he says two words (“Live?  Eat!”)  than many actors get from entire speeches.  He also delivers the lines that made me laugh the most and he gives us the movie's crowning moment of awesome.  Analeigh Tipton is hilarious and surprisingly kick-ass as Nora, who wants to be a nurse so she can figure out what's wrong with people and fix it.  She's the closest thing we get to a scientist character and I loved her avid curiosity.  As much as I loved Analeigh, I was disappointed that they didn't cast a multi-racial actress in the role, since the character in the book is half Ethiopian.  Analeigh did a great job, though, and I'd love to see her in more movies.

Finally, the soundtrack is made of win.  R communicates a lot through his collection of vinyl records because it's difficult for him to talk.  From this day forward, every zombie movie has to involve the main characters dancing to Bruce Springsteen's “Hungry Heart”.  That's a new law, one that I just made up, after seeing R and Julie dance around to it in the airplane.  I loved it.  Also watching the zombies shuffle en masse very, very slowly to “Rock You Like a Hurricane” is not a sight, or a sound, to be missed.

I have two nitpicks and one major problem with the movie. 

Nitpick one:  The CGI is terrible. 

Nitpick two:  Why is it that after an apocalypse no one can wear brightly colored clothing?  With the exception of R's red hoodie (“My hoodie would suggest I was unemployed”) everyone wears the same grays and blues that they wear in every other post-apocalyptic show.  Is this a matter of natural selection?  If the apocalypse hits on a day when I am wearing purple, is it easier for the zombies/aliens/killer germs to spot me and kill me, so the only survivors are those who were wearing boring colors?  Or is there a post-apocalyptic law in effect that as soon as the aliens/zombies/killer germs attack, I have to drop everything and go put on some really dull-looking clothing before commencing survival activities?

My major problem is that, frankly, the concept that true love cures zombieism does not make any sense to me whatsoever.  If you are the kind of person who absolutely needs the plot to make some sort of scientifically plausible sense, then you probably won't like this movie.  Having said that, I was swept up enough in the emotions of this story to just roll with it.  I actually thought the concept worked a little better in the movie than in the book, because in the book the author talks more about how the zombie plague is caused by some sort of mass human depression and the more he tries to explain it the less plausible it seems.  In the movie, no one understands what's happening, but by golly they sure are happy that it works.  If you are willing to see the movie as a fable about making connections and about the healing power of love, then you'll be completely moved by this movie.  Goodness knows I was.

If you've read the book (which I reviewed previously for Smart Bitches), be aware that the movie is not nearly as complex as the book.  Sometimes this is OK – I thought the ending worked slightly better when no one even attempted to explain it, and I rather enjoyed the stripped down love story.  Sometimes this is a bummer – we lose almost all the world building that explains why the humans can't live the way the want to and how the zombies form their own society.  I loved the complexity of the book, and I loved the relative straight-forwardness of the movie, and I can't wait to see it again.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    LG says:

    The ending bothered me, too. If I were all those people, I’d also have been trying to hunt down a reason the zombie apocalypse happened in the first place, because what’s to stop it from happening again? Although, if you just ?love? enough, I guess you could make it go away again if you had to.

    Still, I LOVED R! And now I really want to read the book to get me some more R, even though I’m not looking forward to more of that ending. Ugh.

  2. 2
    Amy K says:

    I really loved this movie! It was sweet and funny and so unique that any Romeo and Juliet references were somehow cute instead of over-used.
    I didn’t have any problem with the ending. There are a whole lot of zombies out there in tv and movies right now, so I found the lack of zombie-apocalypse explanation refreshing. I really didn’t care to know the why and how of it. I did want to know more about R and how falling in love changed the world.
    The movie isn’t super dramatic, but it’s adorable and Nicholas Holt was really great.
    I would absolutely pay 12 dollars to see it again.

  3. 3
    chantalhab says:

    I really liked this movie too! It didn’t bother me that the ending didn’t make a lot of sense to me. What did bother me was the indestructible nature of the zombies – more than once I was like PHYSICS DOESN’T WORK LIKE THAT! But I can get over that because it was extremely funny and very well acted.

  4. 4
    Natalie H6 says:

    I loved this movie. I’m not going to dig at all into the fact that they weren’t looking at why it happened. I’m just seeing that missing part as because everyone was just moving past damage control. Plus….I am a HUGE zombie hater (only monsters that scare me)….but this movie worked for me.

    I absolutely love R! I enjoyed being in the hero’s head for a change. My hubs and I agree that our favorite parts were when he kept saying “Don’t be creepy” and when his best zombie friend (Marcus) says, “Bitches, man” and “Fuck yeah”. The idea of a zombie talking let alone having that much attitude is hysterical to me.

    We don’t buy movies at full price in my house….but we both agree this one is worth the $20 price tag when it comes out.

  5. 5

    I liked the book better (that’s not really surprising is it?) but I took my Oldest to see this and she loved it. I mean reciting lines on the way home loved it.

  6. 6
    Lyra Archer says:

    R was completely awesome, and I agree with the hugging statement. I’d hug that boy till he died from smush! And as someone with a near constant internal dialogue with my own brain, I was hysterical listening to all his thoughts. Finally someone understands me, maybe zombies make the best boyfriends?

  7. 7
    Charon says:

    “The concept that true love cures zombieism does not make any sense to me whatsoever.”

    Okay… but zombieism does? Now, I do realize that sometimes it works best to have some major suspension of disbelief at the beginning, but then stay fairly realistic thereafter (e.g., Kafka’s Metamorphosis). But… if you’re willing to believe in the walking dead, what’s a little True Love Conquers All?

  8. 8
    LG says:

    My perspective: Zombies are an established thing – there have been tons of stories written and filmed about them, so they’re accepted in much the same way that werewolves and vampires are accepted. The movie does a bit of handwaving when it comes to explaining how the zombie apocalypse started, but I was okay with that. When it got to love curing zombieism, though, I was asked to take a bit too much of a leap. I still liked the movie, but the resolution felt like cheating – it was the equivalent of shouting “and magic saved them!” without ever explaining how the magic worked, what the rules were. I mean, if R and Julie were to break up, would R begin to revert back to being a zombie? The movie didn’t even give me that much grounding in how this “love cures them” thing worked.

  9. 9

    My biggest argument was that Julie didn’t seem like much of a survivor to me. She was an idiot a lot of the time, not what I would expect of someone who was trained enough to go outside the walls into a post-apocalyptic world where the zombies had won for the last 8 years. Driving around in a corvette and she doesn’t even make a break for it? Really?!

    That being said, I really loved it as a modern adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, much the same way that Clueless was for Emma. The touches were light but definitive, and going through and picking out details (M for Mercutio! Nora is the Nurse! Parry is Paris!) made for a lot of enjoyment and entertainment, even while I was despairing over Julie’s character.

  10. 10
    Andromaha82 says:

    I didn’t NOT like the movie and I know it’s a silly zombie comedy but I still can’t get over the fact that she fell in love with the guy who ate her frigging boyfriend!!!

  11. 11
    Mikou Fan says:

    I did enjoy thus movie, but maybe I was predisposed. I already loved a book called “I Fell in Love with a Zombie” a post-apocalyptic romace novel by Sean Kennedy. That book is a gay romance and it is more serious, but the stories bear some similarities.

    Also, for anyone who enjoyed WB or IFILWAZ, I would recommend the song, “If I Were A Zombie” by Stephanie Mabey. It can be found on her youtube channel (stephaniemabey) and could have been custom written for Warm Bodies.

  12. 12
    Mikou says:

    Correction: the song is actually “The Zombie Song”.

  13. 13
    LG says:

    And kissed him. Without checking first to make sure his mouth didn’t look like the horror it was earlier on in the movie. ::shudder::

  14. 14
    PamG says:

    Lucky I don’t go to movies much, cuz this one’s kind of—um—spoiled.

  15. 15

    Really really really grateful for the review. I’ve been wanting to watch it but movies have this twisted way of mutating and becoming something horrendous so I was quite uncertain whether I should watch it or not.

  16. 16
    Moviemavengal says:

    CarrieS your review is spot on.  I also thoroughly enjoyed this movie, and all the Romeo and Juliet references.

    Totally agree about how great Nicholas Hoult is as R.  He expressed so much without speaking.

    For those who don’t know, Nicholas Hoult was the chubby child who was in About A Boy with Hugh Grant.  Man did he blossom once he got through puberty!  He played Colin Forth’s young gay lover in A Single Man a few years ago, and I almost fell over when I realized that chubby child now had THAT body!

  17. 17

    @LG If you look at the story in more of an SF light—where the actual events and situations in the story are metaphors writ large for our own society, it makes perfect sense. Zombieism in WB isn’t about being undead and eating brains—it’s about dulling your feelings and creativity until you have to steal other people’s creative essence to survive. It’s a metaphor for the rat race, for corporate, consumerist society, for disconnection from our fellow humans and the lack of mindfulness that goes into our everyday lives.

    In that sense, experiencing a strong emotion like love—one powerful enough to jerk you out of your comfortable, established world is *exactly* like coming back to life. And it’s exactly what saves/cures you.

    I’m sad to hear that the Boneys and the zombie culture were cut out of the movie, but I understand expressing it in visual form would probably be lost in the shuffle.

  18. 18
    Jimthered says:

    This is one of those movies where you’re supposed to go more with how things feel than how they are scientifically possible (such as how R. kills and feeds, but apparently not only feels bad about it but can avoid doing it, as when he attacks, kills, and eats the teens except for Julie).  My review is at http://thearmchaircritic.blogs…

    The part that bothered me (if one is inclined to approach it logically): Since R only fell for Julie after eating her boyfriend (and experiencing his memories), why not think his feelings weren’t his own, but only the after-effects of the feelings of his victim?  The problem with this, from the movie’s point of view, is that it changes from the love-at-first-sight theme of the movie (from R’s perspective; it could be Stockholm Syndrome for Julie) to how much of a zombie’s feelings actually come from their victims.

  19. 19
    Gail Delaney says:

    I’m not a zombie/undead movie fan, but when I saw the previews for this movie I was intrigued. I saw it three weeks ago with friends, then took my kids (15 and 20) this past Friday to see it. They enjoyed it as much as I did. My son liked it (the 15 year old) for different reasons than my daughter. Of course, both my daughter and I write romance… so… do I need to explain?

    Someone said they liked how the actors (Hoult and Corddry) were able to express so much while saying so little. I agree 100%. I think that was one of the things I liked best. When I read, I like heroes who can say a lot with few words, and R takes that to the extreme.

    Two favorite parts (Being vague for those who haven’t seen it):

    1. When he tells her no matter what happens, they stay together.

    2. When it looked like there was no way out, he promised again to keep her safe, then did what he had to do. That moment could have been the end, but it became the beginning, really.

    Yeah, I saw plot holes… but I enjoyed the rest too much to care.

    I read the book after seeing the movie, and this is a rare case in which I think the movie did the story more justice. They fixed some of what I saw as flaws in the book by changing elements in the movie.

    My daughter and I already agree this is a movie we want on DVD. :-)

  20. 20
    CarrieS says:

    @PamG – It’s slightly spoiled , but not as much as you might think – the idea that love changes zombies is introduced very early in the movie.

  21. 21
    DianeN says:

    If anyone is looking to read a good YA zombie romance, I recommend Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel. It’s futuristic but the society is very Victorian, and somehow Habel makes that work. I absolutely loved Bram, the undead hero. The sequel Dearly, Beloved is out now but I haven’t read it yet. 

  22. 22
    JayHJay says:

    Carrie, do you have a sense of what age is appropriate for this movie? My daughter has read and seen Hunger games, but I watched it before I took her.  Is this more adult in theme?  Appropriate for a pre-teen who reads lots of fantasy?

  23. 23
    CarrieS says:

    I think it depends on the pre-teen.  I would think 12 or 13 and up?  There is some gore – fairly mild by zombie movie standards, but still gory.  R eats brains, which looks gross.  There’s no sex but there is a brief look at Julie in bra and underwear.  The scene where R and co. attacks Julie and her friends is scary and somewhat bloody.  There’s some swearing including the F word.  The overall message is a positive, redemptive one.  I haven’t seen Hunger Games, but I read it, and my guess is if she was OK with that then she will probably be OK with Warm Bodies.  Might be a good idea for you to preview it yourself, first.

  24. 24
    JayHJay says:

    Thanks Carrie!

  25. 25
    Sybylla18 says:

    I saw this at a “Baby Pictures” showing with my five-month-old (his first movie!) and my father, and my dad and I were in stitches at several parts.  At one point we started whispering (there were only two other people in the theater and one of the was mid-diaper-change), “Oh R, R, wherefore art thou R? Deny thy diet and refuse thy nature, or if thou wilt not…” etc.  We’re both former English teachers.

  26. 26
    Mina Lobo says:

    I enjoyed the movie, especially the dry, understated, dark humor. I found the idea that love (the caring, supportive show of love) would revive the zombies rather charming. The book’s on my dangerously tall to be read stack.

  27. 27
    Trixienv says:

    I enjoyed both the book and movie, although I think their tones were very different.  If remember correctly there was a plot line in the book about genetically enhanced vegetation, which Perry was working on, so I sort of thought that whatever had gotten into his bloodstream from that was what caused R to start regenerating.  In fact, possibly anyone who had been eating that food source and then was eaten by the zombies perpetuated that.  Possible the author’s take on messing with our food sources?  My only criticism in the book was really that Julie starts off the book as this sort of tough, wise beyond her years gal, and then turns into a chick who seems focused on pulling one over on her Dad and pissing him off.  Disappointing.

  28. 28
    Suzie S. says:

    Hello, i’ve seen the film and yes it is really sweet and totally hillarious. However I did read the book and if you don’t want to spoil your oppinion on the film don’t read it because it is like 100 times better. I know, i was confused at the end as well because i read the book first. They miss out quite lot of important information in the second half of the film and the ending in the book is actually totally different that the film’s.  Dispite this, if you loved the film, have a go reading the book it’s genius in my oppinion (read it in 2 days, I couldn’t put it down) and i’m sure hopeless romantics will defenetelly enjoy it ;D

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