The Movie Date: Warm Bodies

The Movie Date buttonThe Movie Date is a weekly feature where we discuss movies that may appeal to the YA audience. Andrew is The Reading Date’s resident movie critic and this week he discusses Warm Bodies, directed by Jonathan Levine, based on the book by Isaac Marion. Warm Bodies is due to hit theaters February 1st, and we took in an early screening tonight.

Warm Bodies movie poster

A barely sentient zombie finds himself attracted to a living human girl and takes her to his hideout; they hit it off and, to his surprise, he feels himself coming back to life.

Zombies are not vampires. Though both are undead, vampires are graceful, quick, attractive, and articulate; their flesh-eating brethren, sadly, are clumsy, slow-moving, decaying, and can say little other than their favorite word: BRAAAAIINS. So I was a little concerned when my wife and daughter explained the concept of this film to me: could a human-zombie romance ever work, the way Edward and Bella’s did? Can he ever utter “I love you”? Won’t she mind the smell of his rotting flesh? And wouldn’t a romance between the two of them seem silly yet disgusting?

It does work beautifully in the world of Warm Bodies, perhaps because zombies (politely called “corpses” here) aren’t the deadest of the undead: rather, skinless, sinewy ex-humans called “bonies,” prowling and snarling like rabid dogs, are the real menace in this postapocalyptic hell,. Zombies, meanwhile, shuffle about amiably in their backwards society, stumbling through a ruined airport terminal with nowhere to go, really.

One such aimless figure is a young ex-human named R (he can’t remember the rest of his name). When a band of humans enters the zombie zone to raid a pharmacy, R (Nicholas Hoult, About a Boy) and his fellow corpses attack them—but R is smitten with a tough blonde girl named Julie (Teresa Palmer). He disguises her as an undead to protect her from his brethren and takes her to the grounded airliner he calls home. Though initially able to utter only a few words (“not eat,” he assures her with a grisly hand gesture), R finds her company therapeutic and oddly starts showing signs of life: warmer skin temperature, sleep and dreams, the occasional heartbeat, longer sentences… Julie comes to realize this too and races to tell her dad (John Malkovich), the leader of the human survivalists. And they better think of something quick, because the bonies are descending on the human city, moving in for the kill…

It’s a compelling story, to be sure, and the author’s inspirations are clear (the starcrossed R and Julie are clearly an homage to Romeo and Juliet, complete with balcony scene). But make no mistake, this was a hard film to get right: it could have been sickly sweet, bombastically brutal, or tastelessly funny, and it’s none of those; instead director Jonathan Levine, having mastered the subtleties of “laugh and death” with the touching 50/50 last year, nails it.

The film has been described as “Zombieland meets Twilight,” which is roughly accurate, though the tone hews closer to the former film. I understand the movie is a bit more comedic than the book, but I think that’s necessary: onscreen there’s something fundamentally absurd about the slow-moving, half-witted, rotting creatures, and the film does a good job making gentle fun of their pathetic world. Once we’ve done that, we’re able to feel some sympathy for the poor half-dead undead. As with the charming Cullens in Twilight, we grow fond of this extended family of the undead who are trying so hard to think of humans as friends and not dinner. I hope when the real zombie apocalypse comes, the walking corpses are half as nice as these guys.

Do you think you’ll go see Warm Bodies? There are still a few weeks to read the book first!


14 thoughts on “The Movie Date: Warm Bodies

  1. we were totally in the same theater tonight! i can’t believe you wrote this review so quickly. this was actually my second time seeing the film (saw it before the holidays at the arclight) but my friend really wanted to go. i have to say that i still really liked it the second time around. it’s really smart and funny but also kind of poignant. i thought the two leads were excellent, as were the secondary characters (esp rob corddry).

    i still have not had a chance to read the book but, if the movie is any indication, the book will be really good. glad you liked it, andrew. 🙂

    1. wordsforthepictures says:

      I’m glad you mentioned Rob Corddry; I know he’s a cult favorite but not one of mine. However he’s really great in this film, kinder/ gentler than I’ve seen him, and his transformation is nearly as enjoyable to watch as R’s.

      You’re lucky to have got into the screening; we were supposed to go with another group that showed up fifteen minutes beforehand and were denied entry. Apparently having a ticket doesn’t mean you get in!

      And agree about smart/funny + poignant. As I wrote, it’s really hard to get the tone right on something like this, but Levine knew exactly what he was going for.

  2. veganyanerds says:

    I thought that was the guy from About a Boy/Skins! I haven’t read the book yet (but I read about the drama involving the author). I’m a bit of a wuss, but I think I will have to see this !

    1. wordsforthepictures says:

      If you’re squeamish about the gore, there’s hardly any; the director carefully cuts away from that stuff. Much, much tamer than (say) The Walking Dead (which admittedly is pretty disgusting at times).

  3. MsJohannah says:

    I want to see warm bodies. I’m not sure I want to read the book.

    1. wordsforthepictures says:

      Though I hear the book is great, I hadn’t read it and enjoyed the movie a lot. FWIW.

  4. BermudaOnion says:

    I bet that will appeal to the YA audience but I don’t think it’s for me.

    1. wordsforthepictures says:

      As I think Lucy commented in her review, the author was determined not to have this YA-sounding book categorized as such; it’s just general fiction. I agree that YA fans are the main target but I think the movie’s broad enough to play to adults as well.

  5. Tammy Sparks says:

    I can’t wait to see this movie! Great review, Andrew:) I just ordered the book from Amazon so I’ll try and read it first.

    1. wordsforthepictures says:

      Hope you enjoy, Tammy! You’ll have plenty of time to read; the movie doesn’t open until next month.

  6. I am definitely going to see this!!

    1. wordsforthepictures says:

      It comes out in early Feb. Hope you enjoy!

  7. Riz Bulatao says:

    I’ve read the book last Christmas and I was really hooked into R and Julie’s world. It’s fascinating how to see the world from a perspective of a zombie and how he’s trying to still live like a human. I will definitely watch the film (and I couldn’t wait any longer) 🙂

  8. bookgoonie says:

    I really can’t wait to see this one. But I really do need to read the book first. Glad to see that I won’t be disappointed & be demanding my $ back.

Leave a Reply

(Enter your URL then click here to include a link to one of your blog posts.)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.