Cold Body, Warm Heart
Warm Bodies opens quite candidly with a narration from our lead protagonist, R [Hoult], confessing that he is in fact a zombie but not necessarily a bad person; just an afflicted individual, if you will. Through said narration, he introduces us to his existence, ‘living’ in an airport with fellow zombie, lost, confused and very alone. So, essentially your average teenager/early twenties individual. The exposition continues by explaining that these zombies evolve into wretched ghouls dubbed bonies or skeletons, who have lost all trace of their humanity, along with living tissue and distinctive features. This, as R confesses, is what he has to look forward to. Despite his zombified state, R and his friend M [Corddry] interact as best they can and can often summon simple words such as ‘hungry’ and ‘city’. Around this time we’re also introduced to the survivors, living behind a fortified wall, only venturing out to forage for food and supplies. The compound is run by General Grigio (or Colonel, I can’t remember) played by John Malkovich in a surprisingly unhammy performance. His only daughter, Julie [Palmer] is sent out on one such raid along with her boyfriend Perry [Franco] and several other teenagers – I don’t know why they don’t have adult supervision but whatever. The two plots violently collide when R and his undead friends happen upon the survivors and devour most of them. R explains that by eating the brains of humans, he can see their memories. In doing so, he consumes Perry’s thoughts and supposedly emotions as well, as he falls in love with Julie. Fearing for her life, R coats Julie in a handful of his coagulated undead insides juice and brings her home. After spending time together, the couple find common ground and R notices an affect their relationship has on the other zombies.
Adapted from Isaac Marion’s book, the key reasons this film is anything above direct-to-dvd nonsense is the direction of Jonathan Levine, who was responsible for the cutting but superb 50/50 and Nicholas Hoult’s performance. Without a convincing, funny and sympathetic R, the whole movie would fall apart. The continual ambling, shrugging and glazed stares never tire and viewers will no doubt sympathise with this social underdog, rather than being repulsed by the deplorable killer he actually is. But then Hoult’s a curious one: the guy you wished you hated. Every time he turns up people seem to bemoan his presence and roll their eyes, only to pull a one-eighty when the film ends and confess he’s actually quite talented. For example, About A Boy comes out and you want to hate this large eyebrowed little kid but he’s charming, so you let it slide. Then he appeared in Skins, older and a prick but somehow still cool. The bastard. Every now-and-then he’ll turn up in supporting roles in things like A Single Man and X-Men: First Class and you can’t help but feel defeated as you mutter, “Yeah, he was pretty good there too.” The score is rather underplayed and largely shrouded in familiar songs but Beltrami and Sanders provide enough tension and emotion to sell the on-screen antics. Then there’s the make-up, costumes and overall set design. It could be argued that making a street look ravaged by the horrors of an apocalypse would be quite simple: just fill it with crap.. or CGI the crap in later. In truth, it actually requires a great deal of effort to get right and Warm Bodies achieves a pretty decent level of production value.
Despite all the positive elements, I’m genuinely conflicted as this film effectively pulls a Twilight. Interspecies breeding is still the core focus here but rather than trying to palm us off by calling it ‘teen drama’, we’re given a silly comedy and it sort of works. The reason I’m conflicted is this kind of feels like taking a limo ride through a terrible neighbourhood while laughing at the Twilight fans who have to take the bus.. then get off the bus ’cause it’s where they live.. and.. we drive off. Ok, shit analogy, granted. But just because we’re parodying these imbeciles, doesn’t necessarily forgive the basic concept being so utterly utterly fucking stupid. If I eat their brains, I can dream their memories. Bullpiss! Our love can cure them. Fuck off! In an apocalyptic scenario, we would give John Malkovich a gun and put him in charge. Pffft! You see, I don’t want to be seen saying this film is very good and then have some snooty git (and I know plenty of them) turn around and exclaim, “How is this any different from that Twilight saga, you so vehemently despise?” And they’d have a point, the plot holes and frustrations are just as stupid. I’m convinced it’s simply better acting. Because we believe these lead characters are plausible, we believe the rest of the bullshit and even root for them.. until they kiss.. which is odd. Come to think of it, I’m equally conflicted by the Shakespearean nods. On the one hand, I like this interpretive spin on the zombie mythology and the bard’s tale but why base it so heavily and so clearly on Romeo & Juliet without keeping the downer ending? I won’t spoil the finale but I was kind of hoping for a big Shakespearean close, bloodbaths, crying, finger pointing and solemn glances.
I appreciate this review has been a bit of a non-sensical ramble and I apologise for that. In truth, I’m not entirely sure what to think of this film. It’s as entertaining and amusing as it is implausibly dumb and convenient. It’s not a good film but it’s the performances ensure it’s at least a memorable one.
8th February 2013
The Scene To Look Out For:
Every now and then, R will take an evolutionary step forward and rekindle a piece of his past self. Much in the way that we enjoy anthropomorphic displays in animals, watching R haphazardly rediscovering his humanity is oddly endearing and thoroughly engrossing.
Another large problem with this film is the supporting cast. Sure, Rob Corddry is quite funny and Analeigh Tipton provides a laugh or two but none of them are really elevated above “this dude’s a survivor and this dame’s a zombie. What more do you want?” So rather than highlighting a performance, I’d like to point to the extras and shout, DO SOMETHING! That’s all.
“I wish we still had the internet so I could find out what’s wrong with you”
In A Few Words:
“I wouldn’t say it’s anywhere near as good as Shaun Of The Dead or Zombieland but it’s a surprisingly charming number that at least merits a watch”