Warm Bodies: A Lot of Fun if You Don’t Use Your Brain
In January, I wrote a response to the Jonathan Levine film Warm Bodies, based purely on the trailers and what I had heard about the book. Well, now I have seen this film and can say that the trailers were not misleading, and what’s more they didn’t give all the jokes away (one of my biggest pet peeves with comedy trailers). Warm Bodies is, in essence, a snarky zombified adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, a Shakespeare play that I’ve always thought was overrated, but for the sake of Warm Bodies, it works quite well. (This article contains broad plot related spoilers.)
The movie opens with R (Nicholas Hoult), a zombie who has forgotten the rest of his name, roaming around an abandoned airport with his zombie friends, particularly M (Rob Corddry) – the equivalent of Romeo’s friend Mercutio. See the connections? R gives vague exposition about the apocalypse and how zombies turn into terrifying skeleton creatures called Bonies once they give up hope, and as he says this, a zombie begins peeling his skin off sadly. The opening, with its witty voiceover narration, is enjoyable, though R is a bit unbelievable as a zombie. He wanders to his own personal abandoned jet, where he has stashed tons of keepsakes that we later find out are from his hunts. Apparently, R is a hoarder who likes to keep trophies from his kills. He manages to open the plane door and steer himself toward a record player to play himself some music. There are high-functioning zombies and then there are high-functioning zombies! But it’s fair; R needs to be aware enough to fall in love after all. After introducing the zombie way of life, the movie follows R and his group of zombies heading into town to find some brains.
Cut to the walled-up fortress of the living, where Julie (Teresa Palmer) lives with her friends and General of a father (John Malkovich), who hates all things zombies. I assume you recognize our film’s Juliet. She accompanies a ragtag group of young adults on a supply run that – Surprise – gets attacked by none other than our hero’s group of zombies. R falls in love with Julie at first sight. The world slows down, and the only thing left is the two of them – until R is shot by Julie’s boyfriend Perry (Dave Franco), the jealous Paris – so R responds by eating his brains and absorbing Perry’s memories, especially everything with Julie. It’s an interesting plot point that doesn’t make much scientific sense, but it helps with the romance and to add backstory for Julie. To get Julie out safely, R rubs her face with some of his blood and leads her out, holding her hand. How romantic! He takes her back to the airport, and basically holds her hostage, hoping she’ll fall for his sweet charm and witty…grunting. All these supernatural romances are so creepy when you break them down…
Thus the romance begins. The movie does a great job taking Julie from terrified hostage to understanding friend to caring girlfriend. She doesn’t just jump to falling in love with R off the bat, like certain other heroines in recent cinema history. There is an actual journey and bonding happening between the two, and the chemistry isn’t exactly smoking between Palmer and Hoult, but the mutual care is evident, and it manages to avoid necrophilism, and thankfully for Julie, as R falls deeper into love with her, his heart begins to beat, and he’s beginning to live again. Yay! …But why?
And guess what, love is apparently contagious, because once the other zombies see R and Julie holding hands, their hearts all skip a beat…or you know, give a beat. Granted, the logic of the movie is poor on several counts. Becoming a zombie is obviously a biological issue, spread like a virus with a bite or some kind of infection, but love is somehow the cure. That’s a kill shot for several viewers, but I was able to suspend my disbelief for the course of the film and greatly enjoyed myself. I didn’t go see Warm Bodies for a realistic exploration of the human condition.
Eventually, Julie has to return to her father and human friends, most of which cannot begin to understand this young love. As we reach the climax of the film, Julie and R must face not only Julie’s overprotective, prejudice father, who has a military at his disposal, but also the Bonies, who for some reason are furious about the zombies curing themselves. I guess they’re just jealous, since they’re too far gone to be cured. The action sequences with the Bonies could have been better, but for a PG-13 movie reminiscent of bad B-movies, I had fun.
The film isn’t perfect, mostly because of the whole lack of logic behind the premise, but it does live up to the promise of the trailers: tongue-in-cheek humor, a sweet romance, fun – granted PG-13 – action, and great music. I still don’t approve of zombies as romantic leads, but I’ll support this movie as a fun night out. Just try not to think about it too hard.
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