Warm Bodies

R: "I wish I could introduce myself but I don't remember my name anymore. I mean, I think it started with an R, but that's all I have left. I can't remember my name, or my parents, or my job. Although my hoodie would suggest I was unemployed."

Is it telling that the romantic lead, a mindless zombie named R, has more personality in one moan than Edward Cullen did throughout his entire franchise?

Okay, R (Nicholas Hoult) isn't exactly mindless, its more like he's lost. This version of the undead are sad, lost souls, trapped in dead bodies. They re-enact pieces of their former lives as they shamble about in the pursuit of brains. Brains for them are like ambrosia, they give snippets of memories that relieve that endless longing they can't understand. It's one of the best reasons I've ever seen for the zombie eating people aggression, not just survival but a need to connect to their former lives, even fleetingly.

That conceit, that detail, provides the crux for the plot. R collects things, and might have a bit more personality than your average zombie. Enter Julie (Teresa Palmer), who is going through a bit of a rough patch with her boyfriend Perry (Dave Franco). She and Perry are on a scouting expedition beyond the wall, and things kind of go to hell. I won't exactly explain what happens, but suffice it to say Perry leaves the scene, and R has some interesting new memories to devour that contain Julie which shifts his instincts from wanting to kill her, to wanting to protecting her.

Julie is left with an impossible choice -- go with this zombie that's acting strangely, abandoning her best friend Nora (Analeigh Tipton) in the process, or get eaten. This is the start of a truly special relationship, as R slowly regains some of his humanity. Julie is conflicted because she's the daughter of the commander of the last human settlement, who has been hardened by a personal loss to the point where he will always shoot first and ask questions later. He's played by a very subdued John Malkovich, and his presence was strong enough to bring some life to a relatively one-dimensional character.

R has a best friend, M (Rob Corddry), who doesn't understand R's need to protect Julie, which causes some nice conflict. R and M have a nice but subtle and mostly wordless friendship. In fact, besides R (who speaks quite a bit for a zombie and has a frequent inner-monologue which is fantastically self-deprecating), almost all the zombies have to portray emotion and growth with practically no dialogue.

That's both the strength and one of the weak points of the film. The emotional growth of the zombies is really effective, showing humanity popping in little by little, especially with R, whose character arc is really effective. Unfortunately, due to the short run-time, there wasn't quite enough time devoted to the rest of the zombies, who end up being not much more than the shambling masses. Besides that one quibble, this movie has excellent zombie effects (with almost no grue), perfectly chosen music, and offers a fun new take on the zombie apocalypse genre.

I never would've thought anyone could successfully pull off a zombie romance. I'm now convinced that anything is possible. I hold this one up with others of its kind like Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland, and I'm happy to call it my first favorite movie of the year.

3 out of 4 Warm bottles of beer and canned fruit cocktail.

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related. He reviews Arrow and Farscape and cool new movies that strike his fancy.


Juliette said...

I kind of wanted to see this because Nicholas Hoult is great in everything, am really quite looking forward to it now!

J.D. Balthazar said...

I hadn't realized he was Beast in X-Men: First Class and the kid from About a Boy. His presence (along with Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Bill Nighy, and Warwick Davis) is the reason I'm actually even marginally interested in Jack the Giant Slayer.

TheShadowKnows said...

I liked it. For some reason I thought it was going to be a comedy like Shawn of the Dead or Zombieland, but it's actually a lot more quirky and whimsical than that. I would almost call it a fantasy. Don't see it if you expect gore or uproarious humor, but it's a good film if you can see past those preconceptions.

(People comparing this to Twilight are giving Stephenie Meyer too much credit. She didn't invent romance plus the supernatural. Not everything with romance plus the supernatural is Twilight. Please give the "X is Twilight" thing a long rest.)

J.D. Balthazar said...

Shadow, I made the crack about Edward Cullen as more of a joke than as a comparison. Twilight is not really a good enough model to use as a control for any kind of critique.

I totally agree that it is more of a fantasy than a comedy, although there were several moments that made me laugh.

Matthew L said...

I loved this movie, mostly because of R and his inner monologue. I thought it was a great interesting take on the zombie apocalypse movie. I, too, am also a fan of Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland.

Interestingly enough, since Warm Bodies isn't your typical zombie movie, I have friends and friends of friends that have either seen or plan on seeing this movie that would never watch a zombie movie in the first place because they don't like horror movies or gore or such.

Speaking of Shaun of the Dead, I was disappointed that a fan-submitted LEGO design for the Winchester pub didn't make it all the way to production, though it did make it through the submission process. Even Simon Pegg was promoting it on Conan and he had a great quote when he made his appearance on Conan, which was "so yes parents go out and vote for this so that your kids can play with dead things"...:D

celticmarc said...

This one was filmed in Montreal and other places around the city. FYI, in one of the trailers, you see a real shot of downtown (well, we have a few cool buildings). But, in another scene, you see a CGI of the modified Olympic Stadium and it is NOT close to downtown. Far from it. Geographical rant LOL

Billie Doux said...

I loved this movie. It was so oddly sweet and romantic and funny, but not in a ha ha way. Terrific ending, too. Well worth watching.

BeefJerky said...

Warm Bodies is a funnier and pleasantly cheaper-grade movie than Twilight that aims to draw in both Bella & Edward lovers and haters.