Friday, December 21, 2012

Warm Bodies: Movie review

I know, how did I get so lucky to see a movie that isn't out for more than a month? Just lucky, I guess.
This is the book cover, not the movie one sheet. I figure I am slightly less likely to get sued by using an image from Amazon -- thereby encouraging you to buy WARM BODIES, and improving the economic prospectus of said book -- than I am if I rip an image from the movie from online. LAW STUFF! (Do not follow my example on your own blog. Nothing I have said here constitutes legal advice.) Google for the movie poster.

Full disclosure: I have not read WARM BODIES,  but now I definitely want to. Everyone knows I love zombies, yes? And I know that zombies are approaching "vampire-levels" of pop culture saturation, but I don't care. As long as people can put a new twist on the zombie idea, I will keep lining up for more.

The film presented an interesting concept: R, a zombie in a post-apocalyptic world, is going through an existential crisis. He can't remember anything about his former life, not even his full name. He spends his days shuffling aimlessly through the airport and grunting at his only friend, M, wishing he were better able to communicate the thoughts that are running through his head. He explains that the reason zombies love brains so much is because when you eat a brain, you experience all your victim's memories and emotions, and for a moment you feel human again.

But when Z eats the brains of Percy, he falls in love with Percy's girlfriend, Julie.* He saves Julie from his fellow zombies, including M, and the two of them hide out in an abandoned 747 until R can take Julie back to her human compound.

The more time R spends with Julie, the more human (and less zombie) he becomes. The only trouble is, he got that way by killing her boyfriend.

Now, despite a great concept, this isn't a perfect movie. I mean, R's inner-dialogue is funny, but you are staring at R's expressionless face for most of the movie. There is an inherent limitation on an actor's abilities when the direction is literally, "Look sad, but zombie-sad. So not that sad. Maybe a little tired. Yeah, just look tired." Nicholas Hoult did the best he could, but really how much can you do when you're a zombie?

Perhaps that's why I felt like every actor's performance was (pardon the pun) a little lifeless.

Julie didn't seem quite sad enough to be a bereft girlfriend, or tough enough to be a zombie apocalypse survivor. She seemed a little dim, and very prone to making Dumb Blonde Movie Mistakes. On one hand, I like what that revealed about how lifeless existence had gotten even for the survivors, but doesn't make for super compelling cinema. Oh my, she's moping again. How fascinating.

John Malkovich (as Julie's dad and the human generalissimo) didn't seem Malkovichy enough. I mean, c'mon man, you're John Malkovich. Chew some scenery or move aside and let Pacino slum it up!

The best characters by far were Julie's friend Nora and R's friend M, mostly because they were appropriately absurd in (what I thought was supposed to be) an absurdist comedy.

So should you go see Warm Bodies? Yes if you love zombies and off-beat comedies. No if you're squeamish (the movie isn't terribly bloody, but there is one brain-eating scene you'd need a tough stomach to get through) or think $7 is too high a price to pay for a pretty weird comedy. If you're on the fence, I would give this one two-thumbs up for a RedBoxin.

* (Confession time: It took me almost until the end of the movie to realize R + Julie ... OH, I GOT IT, MOVIE GUYS!

To be fair, I think that's a lot easier to catch in a book. It's not like R refers to himself as R during his narration.)


  1. I am jeaslous that you got to see the movie early. Having read the book and then seen som eof the early trailers...and then reading your review...I am a little perplexed. The book is not funny. It isn't really a comedy. However it sounds like they took the inner dialogue and really turned it that direction. I highly recommend you read the book and see the differences. I enjoyed it for the reasons you siad above. I am not a huge zombie fan but I have to give props to the author for taking it in a new directions. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I dont know...I just can't get past this concept. I'll bet the author was like "I got it! Twilight, but swap out zombies for vampires!" By definition, zombies are lifeless, emotionless beings. They are brain-dead and just plain regular dead. Vampires were watered down for Twilight, but at least past versions of vampires always had a personality and emotions. It seems too much of a stretch for zombies to be sentient beings.

    And it's funny, in a sad ironic way, that zombies are getting the sanitized Twilight treatment. They've always been metaphors for hopelessness, the dangers of pack mentality - just like vampires were symbols of human vice - not misunderstood, angsty teens.

    1. I see your point, but I guess I'm just ok with reinventing literary conventions here and there. I mean, the vampire thing in Twilight is pretty crazy (the only thing those vampires had in common with traditional vampires is the urge to drink blood - Stephenie Meyer might as well have made them an entirely different mythical creature - Sparklings!), but what really tipped it over was every copycat who ran up to follow in her wake. The initial inversion (creating vampires who were the EXACT OPPOSITE of human vice -- they literally don't do ANYTHING except deny all their basic urges) is kind of clever, in its own way. Similar with THE PASSAGE by Justin Cronin -- those vampires (if you can call them vampires) are crazy, and are far more about the unintended consequences of the desire for power than they are about vice. And I am ok with that.

      (That being said ... I guess I agree in that I don't think people should change things, just for the sake of changing them. I see it now -- werewolf books about animal activists! Umm, unless you're saying something new about the whole thing, why use the werewolves? Seems like a weird choice.)

      But from what it sounds like, the book version of WARM BODIES was hitting on the hopelessness theme -- just with a happy ending/way out of the hopelessness. And I can get behind that. I mean, is there really a lot more we can say about pack mentality/human nature via zombies at this point? I've been meaning to read WHITE HORSE, except it feels like a retread. (Let's be SHOCKING about what it means to human! So we've got to OUT SHOCK the Walking Dead!) I don't know, it still might be great, I'll go see and report back. ;)

  3. Sounds interesting, and a kinda fun new take on the zombie genre. Um, I don't get the R + Julie comment... can you explain? :P