R - the zombie

Warm Bodies is the heartwarming love story between a young zombie and the girl who’s boyfriend he has just murdered. Years ago, when True Blood and Twilight made supernatural teenage romance a thing, we all laughed at the idea that some idiot would try and make one where a mummy and a zombie fight over a girl. Well, they’re halfway there (no mummies), and it was actually really good. The people involved with this knew just how dumb the idea of a zombie romance is, and with everyone in on the joke nobody can help but have a good time.

At its very best, Warm Bodies is a clever twist on the tired zombie flick. It keeps the post-apocalyptic world interesting, and twists the classic zombie enough for the protagonist to stay relatable. The core of the zombie film is man against himself, the zombies playing the dual role of effigy for man’s struggle with loss of identity in the modern world, and the judge, jury and executioner for his hubris. Warm Bodies is keenly aware of this, and juggles the deeper themes of the zombie genre with an honest to goodness romantic comedy. This isn’t Casablanca, but it never tried to be, and what it did it did way better than anyone would have expected.

At its very worst, Warm Bodies is the latest moist discharge into Hollywood’s regurgitation feeding trough. The roulette wheel for supernatural teen romance somehow passed over chupacabras and wendigo and landed on zombies, guaranteeing that not only would this soulless cashgrab piggybacking on the insipid success of Twilight be made, but that its core romance between a teen girl and a rotting, ambulatory corpse would be the least believable fiction since Scientology. So painfully unbelievable, by the third act you’ll be bored.

The truth is somewhere in between. Let’s go deeper:

Zombie: Flesh Eaters?

This is the picture every fucking review of this movie uses.

R (Nicholas Hoult) roams the dark alleys of a lonely airport, inhabited only by lost zombies, and the faded memories of a life before the apocalypse. He is unable to speak in more than a groan, and does eat living flesh, but his half consciousness allows him to yearn, somehow, for more. We learn some vital facts about the undead: eating the brains of the living allows them to experience the memories of the brain consumed. Zombies, unable to dream and desiring the warmth of their former lives find this the choicest meal. Those who fail to hold on to their memories fade away, their skin sloughs off, and they become boneys, high-speed black skeletal horrors which terrify even the demi-conscious zombies. R, seeking victims, leads a small troupe of fellow zombies on an exploratory raid of a nearby town. There, they encounter a band of human scavengers led by Julie (Teresa Palmer). In the ensuing battle R devours the brain of Julie’s boyfriend Perry (Dave Franco), and experiencing his memories sees Julie in a whole new light (not food). R saves Julie’s life by disguising her as a zombie, and embarks on a journey to save her, himself, and ultimately all of zombie-kind.

Survival of the fittest

more like EVIL-loution

This is a busy plot. What I just spoke about was really just the first half hour of the movie. Too much to talk about, really, so lets cut to the chase. This was a zombie romantic comedy.

First, the zombies. The idea of zombies clinging to their humanity and even having a chance at curing the zombie plague is great. That zombies can lose all of their humanity, and become soulless terrifying devouring machines, also great. Possible redemption for zombies, like a cure for the plague? Even also great. That the cure is love? Eh, you can’t win all the time. The zombies are handled excellently. They’re funny, they eat brains, they’re hilarious.

Second, the romance. Sadly, the romance is by far the weakest part of the movie. At first I was eager to criticize Teresa Palmer’s performance (Julie), but really, there’s no actress in the world who could pull this off. Let’s look at Julie’s character arc. She grows up in a post-apocalyptic zombie infested hell hole. Her father is the iron souled war-leader of the last humans left alive. Her mother is devoured by zombies. On a desperate and dangerous quest to find medical supplies, all of her friends, including her boyfriend, are murdered and eaten in front of her. One of the mindless monsters performing the act saves her, and then forces her to march dozens of kilometers into heavily infested zombie territory where he imprisons her for days. During her time there, she falls in love with him. Wait what. Watching the “falling in love” montage it was impossible not to be jarred out of the experience by how ludicrous the whole scenario is. It’s a shame that the romance was such a key part of the story, because if they had focused just slightly less on it, its failure wouldn’t have been such a flaw for the film.

Third, the comedy. Every stitch of this movie is brimming with humor. The backgrounds are full of tongue in cheek Arrested Development style gags, the dialogue is full of cheesy laughs, nothing in this movie takes itself seriously enough to lose the pulse of how ridiculous it all is. It’s almost enough to save the movie from the terrible romance, and without a doubt the humor is the high point of the film.

puns!

Puns!

Bottom line, this movie was way more entertaining than it had any right to be. The people involved realized the core absurdity of a zombie-romance, treated it as such, and the results are great. Not a date movie unless the girl is marriage material.

On a scale of 0 to awesome this movie is like fucking a 5. You’re going to have fun, you’ll high five your mates, and then you’ll think fondly of it.

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