When I was trying to convince my fiancé to see the new zom-rom-com “Warm Bodies” with me, I tweeted to “Warm Bodies” author Isaac Marion that he didn’t want to see it because he was sick of zombies. In response, Marion tweeted “Tell him I’m tired of zombies too, and that’s why I wrote this book.”
Incidentally, that’s also why you need to go see “Warm Bodies.”
This movie is for zombie lovers who are looking for something new, but it’s also for those who are are so tired of the zombie craze they would rather die in a zombie apocalypse than watch another one on the silver screen.
In “Warm Bodies,” the world is a few years into a total zombie apocalypse. The few humans left live behind an enormous wall, and the zombies are slowly decaying into “Bonies”—skeletal monsters who have lost any shred of humanity they might have had left.
Enter R, the titular zombie filled with love. He shambles around the airport with all the other zombies, slowly decaying into a Boney and eating the flesh of humans when he gets hungry. He can’t remember his name or his past life, but he remembers snippets, little things like how to work a record player and open doors.
As in any good Boy-Meets-Girl formula, everything changes for R when he “meets” (read: almost eats) Julie. And this is when the story really embraces its absurdist premise. Through their unlikely relationship, R and Julie begin a revolution that will forever alter the human and zombie worlds.
“Warm Bodies” as Isaac Marion dreamed it up goes against the grain of zombie story-telling. There are those who will be disappointed that it lacks the gritty realism of “The Walking Dead” or the physical humor and slapstick violence of “Zombieland.” Let’s be clear: this is not a horror film as most zombie fiction is. This is not an action flick, this is not meant to scare you. And it certainly makes no pretensions to realism.
In short, it’s a miracle “Warm Bodies” happened at all. It was an almost perfect adaptation of the book (one major plot point aside), which is an utter rarity in Hollywood. It was a quirky comedy, a touchingly adorable romance, and absurdist art all rolled into one.
And speaking of Hollywood, there was nearly nothing “Hollywood” in this film. No ginormous ‘splosions (sort of), no car chases (well…), and even the final battle was less battle and more meaningful compromise. It stuck to the thoughtful, subtle, understated tone of the book.
In other words, for once in the long, sordid history of book-to-film adaptations, they didn’t mess it up.*
Hilariously self-aware moments littered the film. From R’s chagrined inner monologue on the behavior of his zombie brethren to the references to other zombie pop culture, “Warm Bodies” gets subtle humor right. On top of all that, the movie is–dare I say it?–adorable. Not gag-inducing (though depending on your threshold for cannibalism it might be), but sweet and genuine in a way rom-coms just aren’t.
The only downside to “Warm Bodies” is that it moves slower than expected. This is perhaps only because what we expect from the zombie genre is a fast-paced adventure filled with close calls and narrow misses. While there’s plenty of running around and chasing in “Warm Bodies,” those scenes take a backseat to the conversations and human emotion that give “Warm Bodies” its heart (see what I did there?).
The references to “Romeo and Juliet,” like everything else in the film, are subtle. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for specific naming choices and a certain balcony scene. It’ll be worth it, I promise.
Much like the film’s protagonist, I’m at a bit of a loss for words when it comes to “Warm Bodies.” It’s entertaining, it’s funny, it’s touching. It’s definitely something different, and in these days of giant franchises, constant reboots, and “re-imagined” classics, that’s all we really need.
*Where was the team behind “Warm Bodies” when Brad Pitt & Co. was butchering “World War Z”?