The 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.
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!