Zombie movies have been around since the late 1960’s, with “Night of the Living Dead” being one of the first films to feature the living dead. Since then, countless zombie movies have been made. While films like “Shaun of the Dead” are light-hearted satires, others such as “Land of the Dead” are horror-driven. Jonathan Levine’s “Warm Bodies” falls somewhere along this genre spectrum, blending comedy, gore and romance in a jumbled mess at times.
Summit Entertainment, the studio behind the “Twilight” franchise, wants “Warm Bodies” to resonate with the MTV generation, which is why the script, and the movie itself, is uncomplicated and fixated on a pair of star-crossed lovers, with the male lead being very much dead.
R (Nicholas Hoult) is unlike other zombies. For one, when he’s not devouring human brains, he spends his time listening to old vinyl records. He has also the ability to internalize his feelings, which he conveys to the audience through brief voiceovers. While out hunting with his friends, including M (Rob Corrdry), R runs into a group of twenty-something soldiers. Here he sees Julie (Teresa Palmer) for the first time. After eating Julie’s boyfriend’s brains, R brings her back to his makeshift home. Over the next few days, the two bond over music, fast cars and the alienation they both feel before Julie ventures back home to her overprotective father (John Malkovich).
The script does a good job of humanizing R. His home is cluttered with records from the 80’s, beer and other luxuries from the old world. At first, his affection for Julie is purely carnal. By eating Perry’s (Dave Franco) brain, Julie’s dead boyfriend, R is able to catch a glimpse inside the memories of a human. This aspect of the movie is by far the strangest and made it difficult for me to sympathize with R. Yes, he’s only doing what is natural to him, but this cheat makes R and Julie’s inevitable romance hard to swallow.
“Warm Bodies” devotes most of its time to exploring R’s transformation and his sweet, awkward relationship with Julie. Unfortunately, this gives none of the other actors an opportunity to flesh out their characters. M, played by Rob Corrdry, is the most underused of the bunch. Corrdry’s great comedic timing is hardly evident due to his incessant growling. Instead, R’s voiceovers provide much of the movie’s humor and pokes fun at the zombie stereotype.
The pacing is steady until the movie’s anti-climatic end. R and Julie’s budding relationship sparks something in R’s fellow zombies, causing them to slowly become more human. At the same time, the compound built by Julie’s father is threatened by skeleton creatures known as ‘bonies.’ These two plot points, along with R and Julie’s romance, culminate in an ending that’s safe and virtually chaos-free. But chaos is what I enjoy most about the genre. “Warm Bodies” is nothing more than a predictable romance with a few quirks, which lends itself more to the young adult genre than it does to the classic genre it’s trying to pay homage to.