by Joseph K. Saulnier
Considering how many movies are typically released in the first quarter of the year, Warm Bodies is by far the best movie of 2013 so far. “Zombie Love Story” was the first term that came to my mind when I was first made aware of the movie, but it is so much more than that. Part “Romeo and Juliet”, part “Zombieland”, this adaptation of Isaac Marion’s critically acclaimed young adult novel is a humorous and surprisingly fresh zombie movie that gives its own unique look at love.
R, the zombie in our “Romeo” role, is your typical walker (excuse me while I borrow terms from another hit zombie medium). He moves around without purpose, mostly spending his days at the airport. He carries “conversations” with another zombie, M, and his internal monologue certainly lets the viewer know that zombies are fully aware of what they are. As a result of their condition, they no longer have control over what they do. Nor does R try to make excuses for it; they are what they are. This is demonstrated when he and a horde of walkers attack a group of humans. In this group is Julie, who as I am sure you have guessed is our “Juliet”. R immediately falls for her and is determined to have her reciprocate the feelings. This might prove to be difficult, considering that humans and zombies at their core just want to kill each other. It is this feeling, this emotion, that humans thought zombies incapable of, that begins to change R, and other zombies around him.
After the attack, R takes Julie back to his… er, safe haven comes to mind, but it’s really just an abandoned airplane sitting on a tarmac filled with wacky items that R has collected in the time since he became a zombie. Writer/Director Jonathan Levine, who adapted Marion’s novel, has managed to create very smart, witty dialogue, but in a cute way as he did with The Wackness (which Levine also wrote). The sincerity of the dialogue in the movie keeps you interested in a growing relationship that’s way, way outside the box. There is plenty of violence in the movie too, as we see R attack a human, bite their arm, and hide their brains away for a snack later. Speaking of brain, the film explains that when a zombie eats a human’s brains, they remember our memories. This is kind of important.
Despite being a very different romantic comedy, the film also delivers a healthy horror flick. Zombies are not the only thing that is a result of the zombie outbreak. In this post-apocalyptic world there is another threat: bonies. Bonies are zombies that are so far gone they do not care anymore. They’ve given up, have peeled off their skin and attack anything with beating hearts. R says it best in the film. “Zombies do this also, but at least they are conflicted about eating it.” Even though the bonies are fully CG creations, and utterly obviously so, Levine has done it in such a way that you only get quick glances, which is a nice way to keep the PG-13 rating considering all of the blood flowing in the film.
Nicholas Hoult is fantastic in the lead role of R, and he finds a way to turn on the creepy just as easily as he can turn the funny on. Everything our “Romeo” character is supposed to be is remarkably portrayed by Hoult. Of course it helps to have a great supporting cast, Teresa Palmer strong and sweet as Julie and John Malkovich as her father who is the hardened general who is leading the human survivors.
Warm Bodies is a great zombie movie, with an excellent sound track to set the mood throughout the film. But it’s more than that. It is also a charming story of unconventional love. Telling the story from R’s point of view gives it a very fresh feel, but it’s the thought and care that Levine and the cast members put into it that make it such a superb film. Warm Bodies is a love story between woman and monster, and the screenwriting and execution delivers a charm that cannot be denied. Warm Bodies is funny, but it’s also sweet, a bit dark at times, and highly original. All of this combined makes it the first must-see film of 2013.
4.5 brains out of 5