Warm Bodies, 2013, USA
There’s no denying that zombies are hot in contemporary pop culture. Warm Bodies deviates from the “standard” zombie story, in an adaptation that is very loosely based on the story of Romeo and Juliet, and based on the novel of the same name by Isaac Marion.
Julie (Teresa Palmer) is a human living with her over-protective father (John Malkovich) in a sort of “gated community” several years after the zombie apocalypse. When a mission goes wrong, Julie is saved by R (Nicholas Hoult), a zombie that is not quite like other zombies. He has some level of self-awareness, and he’s able to communicate on a very basic level. As they get to know each other, R’s personality begins to develop and Julie develops feelings for him.
Of course, there’s the obvious problem: R is a zombie. While the way the film dealt with that inconvenience was charming, it didn’t feel convincing. It just seemed too easy, and it made me wonder why it hadn’t happened a long time ago.
Hoult narrates the film, which is very much from R’s perspective. His narration is awesome – very dry and witty. It’s an interesting narrative technique and it does give the audience insight into the day-to-day zombie life, but it actually made for a dry first half of the film. Prior to this point, R’s ability to communicate is limited, and the story just wasn’t working for me. Luckily the film picks up quite a bit at the halfway point and becomes quite enjoyable.
I was quite impressed by the performances. Hoult did a fantastic job adding some heart to his character – a truly excellent feat given that his character is dead and eats the flesh of humans, which can be a bit of a buzz kill, as one might imagine. And Palmer avoids the pitfall of just being the love interest: she has personality and backbone. I really liked Julie.
One major blunder is the fact that the visual effects just aren’t very good. “Bonies” are zombies that have “given up”, and look pretty much how the name suggests. Unfortunately, the CGI is really bad so their movements are unnatural, and they look terrible. I’m assuming that the CGI budget was pretty limited, but why not see what they could have done with make-up, and folks in costumes? The “normal” zombies looked great, and I’m sure it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to have done the “Bonies” with actors in costumes and make up instead of CGI motion-capture effects.
I ended up enjoying Warm Bodies, but I’m glad I didn’t shell out the cash to see it in theatres. Give it a rental!