Let’s make this clear upfront. Warm Bodies is not Twilight with zombies. There was an early promotional poster that screamed Twilight, and got fans of the novel quite perturbed. Any comparisons to Twilight are undeserved as Warm Bodies is quite the inventive, quirky, romantic comedy with zombies to ever exist.
I read the novel by Isaac Marion before any rumblings of a film adaptation ever surfaced. After hearing the premise of a zombie/human love story, my interest piqued. It is a strange novel, as any that focus on such a weird romance should be. It is also quite well-written and interesting, giving some background on how zombies in this novel’s world came to be and some of their idiosyncrasies. Zombies trying to mimic a human family with complete with zombie children is something that is not in common with The Walking Dead I believe. Once you get past the fact that this guy is dead and is having feelings for a human and vice versa, it is a great read.
I was quite surprised when the first trailer for Warm Bodies hit. It has a lot of comedy, something that the novel does not feature heavily. Could someone have ruined this novel? Jonathan Levine (50/50) wrote the screenplay and directed the film. I was a bit worried by the difference in tone in the film, but nonetheless still excited to see if a zombie/human romance could translate well to the big screen.
It turns out that Warm Bodies is a fantastic film. I left my screening singing the praises of Jonathan Levine, and stars Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Rob Corddry, John Malkovich, and Analeigh Tipton.
The plot of the film is centered on a zombie teenager named “R” (Nicholas Hoult). He cannot remember his full name anymore, but he holds onto what remains of his human thoughts. He does not fully understand what he used to be, but he clings to the remaining human elements as well as living a bit differently than the other zombies surrounding him. He has a zombie best friend named “M” (Rob Corddry) who seems to have similar interests as R and probably has some remaining human pieces inside him also. Things change when R, M, and other zombies go on a hunt for humans (the food). R is immediately taken with a human named Julie (Teresa Palmer) and likes her even more when he eats her boyfriend’s brains, reliving his memories of her. R takes Julie back to the zombie compound at an abandoned airport and that is where the story of their relationship begins.
Humans become zombies in this film by a transmission of a virus of sorts. They become infected. Humans have hidden themselves away from the rest of the world. In Warm Bodies’ case, an abandoned sports stadium. Humans do still venture out, but at the risk of being eaten or becoming infected. The main source of conflict in Warm Bodies is the humans trying to win against the zombies, and restore their once normal world.
Considering the zombies don’t speak, the Nicholas Hoult’s performance as R relies mostly on his body language, his mumbling, and the occasional full word. He narrates the film with his thoughts, which are completely understandable and coherent. If you take away the narration, Hoult does a fantastic job of portraying R with not much to work with in scenes with humans. The burden of his scenes with Julie lies with Teresa Palmer who actually does have lines and is trying to figure out who this strange zombie is.
Rob Corddry, known for his comedic roles in films like Blades of Glory and Hot Tub Time Machine, portrays an older, somewhat wiser zombie called M. He plays a comedic role again, but it is more subtle. He is conflicted with his existence as a zombie also, but seems to understand his zombie-ness more than R. When R brings Julie back to the airport, it is leads to bewilderment and confusion for M. Like Nicholas Hoult, Corddry does not have many words to say and does not benefit from any narration of his thoughts. He does a remarkable job as a zombie, considering he is one of the first to figure out that something is changing in the zombies for the better, and he does it with facial expressions and a few mumbled words.
The other star of Warm Bodies is the music. It is like a perfect mix tape, and one of the reasons why I liked this film so much. R is kind of a hoarder, so he has a record player and some vinyl hidden away in his airplane living space. The older songs in the soundtrack are because of his collection. Guns N’ Roses, M83, Roy Orbison, Bruce Springsteen, The Mynabirds, John Waite, Bob Dylan, and others are included in the soundtrack. The music makes it that much more enjoyable and memorable.
Coming back to the novel, readers will be pleased to know that just about every big element from novel is in the film. It has been a while since I read the book, and the film is close enough to the book that it reminded me of what happened. While the tone is more comedic, I do believe this film is faithful to the novel. This is not a completely different story, and Jonathan Levine did not just take the zombie/human romance element and run with it. If only most novel adaptations were like Warm Bodies, readers would be happier with how the vision in their head translated to the big screen.
I have seen some disparaging reviews of Warm Bodies, and I have no idea where those reviewers are coming from. I do not have one thing that I can complain about, and that is a rarity coming from someone familiar with the source material. Warm Bodies is a pure delight. It mixes comedy and some romantic feeling with a fight between zombies and humanity. Things get mixed up when humans realize there is still some humanity left in these zombies. There is a theme of love and that it can conquer all that is instrumental to how the film ends. Some may balk at this saying it is too gushy, pleasant, and perfect. In any case, should Isaac Marion write a sequel, I will be more than happy to have Jonathan Levine adapt it and have this great cast return.
P.S. Isaac Marion did just release a prequel to Warm Bodies called The New Hunger. It is only available in e-book form right now.
I give Warm Bodies 5 “ red hoodies” out of 5.
by Sarah Ksiazek