*Warning: Review contains spoilers*
Warm Bodies had the promise of being a slick, smart zombie movie. Yet for me it seemed to try to be too edgy and ended up being unsure what genre it was actually aiming for. What was really puzzling was the fact that I did enjoy the film, but it didn’t match up to my all-time favourite zombie comedy, Shaun of the Dead. True, both movies are aiming for very different markets, but I still felt it could have pushed the envelope a bit more.
The plot is a reworking of the classic star-crossed lovers. This time we have R (played by Hoult) who is a corpse (or zombie to you and me) who wants more from his life. He feels that he is just coasting along, his life consisting of moping about the airport where he lives and going hunting in the city for humans to munch on with his friend “M”. This all changes after he and his herd attack Julie (Palmer), her boyfriend Perry and their scavenging party. R eats Perry’s brains and absorbs his memories and feelings. This results in him falling for Julie and he ends up saving her many times throughout the movie.
You have hope that these two will overcome their differences, but this is derailed when R, overcome by guilt, tells Julie the truth about Perry’s death. This causes her to abandon him and go back to her compound. However, when R catches up with his friends, he finds out that Julie and his relationship has somehow changed things and the zombies are starting to change, or cure themselves. (Who knew that to cure Zombieisim, all you need is love. So, Rick from The Walking Dead, go hug a zombie and change the world).
To throw in some conflict, Boneys (zombies who have given up all hope and now eat anything with a heart) have chased these zombies who are returning to life away from the airport and are now gunning for R and Julie. So R takes it on himself to go to the compound and tell Julie what’s going on.
To cut to the chase, the humans realise that zombies are changing and both the humans and zombies join up to fight the Boneys. They then both work together to build a better world and the huge wall that separates them is blown up. Thus, R and Julie are able to have a future together.
Writing this review has helped me collect my thoughts on this movie much better, because I did like it, I just didn’t love it. For the first two thirds of the movie it was really good and watching the developing friendship between R and Julie was fascinating. Both Hoult and Palmer work well together and although I didn’t buy into this blossoming romance, I did see the start of a friendship. You could see the subtle changes in R as Julie showed him more and more of what it was to be alive. She also ended up discovering life again by re-teaching R how to be human.
However there were a few times I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at the liberties the writer took in order to move characters in a certain way. It ended up not feeling as organic and natural as it could be. A couple of examples I can think of is Julie’s acceptance that she has to stay with R for a few days.
“Fine” you say. “R is keeping her safe. Making sure his fellow zombies don’t chomp down on her.” Yet, no sooner has this constriction been set, the next scene we see Julie and R driving on the abandoned runway in a BMW convertible. I sat there, thinking why doesn’t she use that to get the hell out of dodge. Run the zombies down. It has been established that they shuffle along at a slow speed. Get in the car and go!
Having realised that R could be having her on and is keeping her for his own selfish needs, Julie leaves the airplane which was R’s home, and attempts to get to the parking lot in order to escape. Of course, she gets cornered and R has to save her, again. They then get the car, with the help of R’s friend M, and attempt to go back to the compound. And surprise, surprise, the car runs out of petrol before Julie can reach her home. If she hadn’t done those donuts on the runway, she may have just made it.
Another thing that really bugged me was that R could hide the fact Julie was a human just by putting a few drops of his own congealed blood on her face. I mean really!!! That little bit of blood would not hide that she is basically fast food for zombies. Just look at The Walking Dead, where the humans have to be covered in the blood and guts of zombies to hide in plain sight. I understand that this is a 12A and may be trying to appeal to the Twilight fans, so they have to cut down on the gore, but then why didn’t the Boneys know she was in the airport? It’s stated that they can sense and will eat anything with a heart.
By playing it safe, the filmmakers have really diluted the shock value and the grittiness that a zombie apocalypse should be. There is very little gore in the film, with the nearest thing being R eating Perry’s brains. There isn’t much gore for nearly everything is done off-screen with no blood splatter. It means that it is more zombie light that a true zombie movie.
By having R and Julie being the main focus of the movie, other characters are negelected, some of which I would have liked to have found out a bit more about. One such character is Perry. He is killed off very early on and we are only given a snippet of his past life through the flashbacks when R eats Perry’s brain. You do get a better understanding on how Julie and Perry’s relationship broke down and it gave a new slant on why he was so distant.
Another character who is important but has little or no backstory, is Grigo, Julia’s dad, played by John Malkovich. It is hinted that he has had to make some tough choices and possibly even had to kill his wife. It’s never gone into in any detail.
Having not read the book, I don’t know how faithful the film is and to be honest I still want to read it. Overall, I think it was a brave attempt to try and do something different with this genre but I couldn’t help comparing it to other films and shows. Most notably Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland and The Walking Dead. Unfortunately for me, this film just didn’t have that spark to hold up to these films.