Warm Bodies‘ unique take on the zombie film offers to breathe some new life into the lull between Oscar season and the summer blockbusters that will be released come Memorial Day. This film puts a new spin on two genres that have been almost played out to death.
Warm Bodies opens with the protagonist R, the first zombie protagonist that I know of, shuffling through his adopted home of an airport. We are granted audience to his inner monologue as he laments the fact that he’s dead. He misses the days when he could remember his name or his family. Right away R’s quick wit stands out, which makes his lack of the ability to communicate with others all the more painful for him. We meet the closest thing to a best friend that R has, M, played by Rob Corddry. They don’t really talk to each other or hang out, but rather they awkwardly stare at each other and grunt.
The film is more of a romantic comedy with zombies than it is a traditional zombie horror film. A good laugh comes when R is standing in the middle of airport saying how much he misses when people could express their feelings. He imagines the airport as it was prior to the outbreak, bustling with life. Except that everybody is looking at a cell phone and completely ignoring each other. This brings up the central theme of the film. Warm Bodies is concerned with the idea of human interaction, and the role that it plays in making one feel alive.
R and his zombie friends go out looking for a quick brain to eat and come across a group of human survivors. While enjoying his meal, R tells the audience about another one of the new zombie film conventions that Warm Bodies brings to the table. Simply biting a victim kills them and turns them into a zombie, but eating the victim’s brain gives them access to that person’s memories. This is something that the zombies love because it allows them to have visions of a life that is no longer possible to them.
This is when R meets his beloved Julie. He immediately feels a deep attraction to her when he sees her, and not just because of her brains either. The fact that he just ate her boyfriend’s brain and had flashbacks of their life together may have something to do with it however. He rescues her from the other zombies, and sneaks her back to the plane he’s using as a bachelor pad at the airport. This is where the film leaves the zombie movie behind and moves ahead as zombie R(omeo) and Julie(t). I think that it’s safe to assume that the similarity between the stories is no mistake. These two young people fall in love despite the fact that they are on opposite sides of life.
The rest of the film is a romantic comedy that doesn’t require much of an in-depth look. Many of the laughs come from R’s inability to articulate what he feels about Julie. Director Jonathan Levine (50/50) has been quoted as saying that this was inspired by the John Hughes films of his childhood where the bumbling nerd struggles to tell the cool girl that he likes her. The film also uses a lot of music as a way to express itself due to R’s inability to do so himself. At the risk of being discredited for using hyperbole, I will say this: Warm Bodies has the best and most literal use of Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Hearts” in cinema history.
Overall Warm Bodies is worth checking out if you’re itching for a few laughs and some innovation in the zombie genre, or if you’d like to see John Malkovich in a bit role. It might be a more romantic choice to see on Valentine’s Day than A Good Day To Die Hard, but which zombie would you rather see, Nicholas Hoult or Bruce Willis?