Director: Jonathan Levine
Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich, Analeigh Tipton, Rob Corddry
Wrtitten by: Jonathan Levine and (novel) Isaac Marion
Running Time: 98 mins
Release date: 8th February 2013
I was a little skeptical when entering to see Warm Bodies. Was this to do to zombies what Twilight has done to vampires and werewolves? Having grown up with these icons of horror, I haven’t much liked the way they have been turned from frightening creatures into sloppy romantic leading men, so having a brain-eater as the kind of guy you could take home to Mum to meet really didn’t fill me with excitement. However, with the help of some likeable performances, a sharply observed script and Shakespeare, I was more than pleasantly surprised.
The Earth has undergone an apocalyptic epidemic. Most of the population has been infected, turning them into brain-chewing zombies, or corpses as the small pockets of humans call them. The zombies themselves, slowly deteriorating, turn into Bonies, skeletons that have no redeeming factors and will eat anything.
R is a zombie, living on a plane in an airport and wondering what his life was really like. While out on a hunt for food, he comes across human, Julie, and is infatuated by her. He saves her and takes her back to his plane where they slowly start to bond and he starts changing, being more human. This could be the end of the epidemic but can Julie convince her father, Grigio, leader of a human resistant group, that there might be a cure.
It doesn’t sound like the most original idea and that’s because it isn’t. The source material it uses for this unlikely love story is, none other than, Romeo And Juliet (check the names out…R and Julie?) So how on earth does that work? Really well, actually.
Writer director Jonathan Levine, who did such an amazing job on his last film, the brilliant cancer comedy 50/50, has done it again. He has taken a source material (Isaac Marion’s teen horror romance) and delivered a film full of sharp observations, witty lines and constant invention. Having R as narrator is hilarious, with his knowledge of being dead and yet memories of a more social planet (cue flashback where everyone is on mobiles texting and ignoring each other) are just genius. He allows the relationship between R and Julie to grow, even though R has a very guilty secret. He even includes a balcony scene!
Levine could have gone for blatant broad comedy but instead filters it so that the love story, which is surprisingly sweet, take centre stage and the humour adds to the enjoyment. The middle section does dip a bit but is soon picked up by a mildly exciting finale.
Nicholas Hoult, who has gone from geeky boy in About A Boy to angst teenager in Skins can now add unlikely leading man as R. It’s a fun performance where he shuffles around, grunting until he starts to speak and then it’s all carefully placed and spoken. There are the odd moment when he slips but playing a zombie who is turning back to human isn’t an acting assignment you’d normally get and the young females, which this film is obviously aimed at, will swoon for him.
As Julie, Australian actress Teresa Palmer, who impressed in I Am Number Four, is just this side of pretty to pull of the lead female without being too stunning to alienate the audience. If she was the most beautiful girl in the world, I don’t think it would have worked. She still needed to be tough and believable that she would shoot zombies in the head, without complaining about a chipped nail. She makes a great deal of her character and the pair are perfectly balanced.
It’s always nice to see John Malkovich on screen and here, in a minor role as Julie’s father, he comes on, steals it from everyone, then once he leaves his mark, you wonder when he will next return. Rob Corddry is also good as M, R’s zombie friend and has the line of the movie (I won’t repeat it here).
Unlike Twilight, which really wasn’t aimed at anyone but teenage girls and ladies longing for romance with vampires, this film’s demographic is similar, yet I found it thoroughly engaging and often very funny, especially some of the jokes that were lost on the young audience who were in the same cinema. It’s a smart piece of entertainment that doesn’t offend and you will come out feeling satisfied that your money was well spent.