Thursday, January 31, 2013
"Warm Bodies" is fun for zombie and rom-com enthusiasts alike. Experience the exhumed in theaters starting February 1.
This is not an attempt at the next "Walking Dead" or "Night of the Living Dead." It is what I call a "zombie lite" film, akin to "Shaun of the Dead" or "Zombieland." With "zombie lite" films like this, we get to delve into captivating undead themes without cumbersome rotting flesh, or gushing guts (which I personally relish, but realize is not for everyone). These themes include self preservation in the face of hellish environments, deciding the moment of true death of the self, and of course, young zombie romance.
"Bodies" offers these themes and ideas, but in a manner I can't recall seeing before; it's unique. The audience gets to experience the story through the point of view of a zombie-in-process (those most foregone and hopelessly undead are referred to as "bonies," of whom even the semi-zombies are terrified). We see the story unfold from the point of view of one who is teetering on the brink of personhood -- almost a fully unaware and conscious-less feeding machine, but capable of falling for a hot blonde girl. (The "moment" our leading man first sees her and is struck with love happens in mid-brain munch. It is one of the best zombie film moments I can recall.)
This unique point of view from an undead person adds to the comedic value throughout the film. We start our journey just as the trailer starts, panning across listless faces of half-dead "walkers" strolling through an airport for some reason. R (played by "Skins'" Nicholas Hoult), our protagonist, catches us up on what has happened as far as he can remember (which isn't much, as he only knows his name to be "R"). Basically, we just know that zombie stuff has happened and the world reacts accordingly.
In the first few minutes of the intro we also get a taste of R's struggle, living in a constant purgatory-like state of zombie-ness with sporadic conscious human thoughts like, "Wow, we move slow...", and, "don't be weird." All ironic as zombies are generally supposed to be completely thoughtless drones. There are a lot of similar one-line jokes that capitalize on this rare character opportunity. My favorite: "...bitches, man." Courtesy of R's best friend and fellow zombie, M (Rob Corddry).
"Warm Bodies" appeals to the lesser known, but apparently present, sexy aspects of zombie infection. It's mildly reminiscent of Twilight, as a romance which falls along the vague line of human-nonhuman relations -- forcing the question, "what is human?" And what is sexually permissible to those of a perceived fundamental difference?
Regardless of your personal stance on the subject, there are many awwws to be had. The relationship build up is very "Wall-E"-esque in its innocence, simplicity, and mostly nonverbal communication. The most familiar feelings arise as our near silent protagonist brings his love interest, Julie (played by Teresa Palmer), home, to his extensive collection of doo-dads and junk. This occupies enough time and space for the relationship to ferment semi-organically. Julie and R get to play with each other, listen to music and spend time in each other's company, and it feels comfortable and well paced for the most part. One distinct difference from the robot based film is that our leading male figure, R, munches on his Julie's dead boyfriend's brain in order to understand her better, see her in a different light, and to generally feel more human.
The film concludes as you might expect. Love conquers all -- even skin-eating, brain deadening plagues. But before we arrive at our happy ending, we have to have patience (although I'm not sure who is in a hurry to see a zombie make out sesh). R and Julie's hand holding is the closest they come for a long time. It is a great build up to the mildly uncomfortable kiss, to help it feel substantive.
Overall, "Bodies" is a refreshing, worthwhile take on the zombie genre. It's fun, random, and hilarious.
"Warm Bodies" is rated PG-13 for zombie violence and some language.
You can check out more succinct reviews in the twittersphere, with #zombiethoughts.
"The Dance of the Dead" (2008)
See some of the best and bloodiest moments of the film here.
"Shaun of the Dead" (2004)
"Community" (TV series) "Epidemiology" episode (2010)