I’ve never understood America’s obsession with zombies. I’ve always been a vampire kind of guy when it comes to my monster of choice. People seem to just really love zombies, though; last summer, a friend of mine told me to watch The Walking Dead, as it was “the best show on television.” Knowing that this friend also watched shows like Dexter, Breaking Bad, and Mad Men, I took this pretty seriously and went about watching the first two seasons of the show. Now, The Walking Dead isn’t a bad show, but it has some notable flaws that hold it back from true greatness … and I’d have to say that shows like Game of Thrones, Sherlock, and Breaking Bad are definitely superior. Still, this particular friend wasn’t the only person to regale me about the brilliance that is The Walking Dead, and I wound up chalking it up to the aforementioned cultural obsession with zombies. Cinema seems to have also caught on to this trend, and have thus produced the new movie Warm Bodies. Warm Bodies is a zombie movie that seems to have been aimed at the Twilight crowd, and I was initially unsure as to how I felt about that. Still, I gave it a shot.
Warm Bodies tells the story of an unfulfilled zombie who spends his apocalypse days shuffling around and having meaningful, groan-heavy conversations with his best friend (another zombie of course). The only thing our main zombie remembers about his past is that his name started with the letter R. Soon, though, R starts to remember what it means to love again when he meets Julie. When the two of them connect, it starts a whirlwind change that could alter the entire landscape of the apocalypse.
I haven’t seen many movies starring Nicholas Hoult, as he seems to be more of an up-and-comer than anything. Still, I really enjoyed his performance. He was able to capture the nuances of awkward, adolescent love while still being able to convey a lot of physical humor through his jerky zombie movements. Hoult was also able to deliver the groaning and broken up speech of a zombie with aplomb, delivering some of the best dialogue of the cast. His internal narration was also charmingly delivered, and his general star-struck behavior towards Julie was extremely endearing.
Teresa Palmer did decently opposite Hoult, her best scenes being the ones with just him. She definitely struck me as going for sort of a Kristen Stewart/Bella kind of style, but admittedly less wooden and more relatable. I’m not entirely sure if her lack of a truly compelling performance was due to the writing or just her personal choice, but I definitely feel like the role had a lot more potential than was actually on display. Still, she wasn’t terrible and the movie didn’t suffer or anything because of this.
The supporting cast was also pretty decent, with Rob Corddry providing a fair amount of comic relief as R’s zombie best friend, M. Meanwhile, Dave Franco proved that he definitely has at least some of his brother’s talent, making the most out of a relatively small role as Julie’s ex. Analeigh Tipton provides some chuckles as Julie’s best friend Nora, and finally John Malkovich manages to conduct himself well as the hardened military leader of the human survivors, who also happens to be Julie’s father. None of these were particularly standout, although they all contribute to the film’s overall charm and for that reason alone I’d say they were all well cast.
Jonathan Levine—who directed the awesome, feels-heavy 50/50—does a pretty good job with this movie, injecting in it the same balance of humor and heart that his earlier movie had. Still, Warm Bodies is not nearly as intense and real as 50/50 was, probably because it’s a romantic comedy with … well, zombies. He shows that he is able to handle genre material just as well, though, and as such the more human (zombie?) moments in Warm Bodies shine through.
There are still a few issues, though, namely the terrible CGI the film employs. I found it to be distractingly bad, but not everyone will have that problem. Also, in terms of his script, there is a lot to be desired. It hits all the notes you’d expect it to hit, and it does a really good job at mashing up the genres of romance, comedy, drama, and action, but some of the dialogue is a little cringe worthy (“… you didn’t eat me, you saved me. Like … a bunch.”) Julie’s character also doesn’t seem nearly as well written as she could have been, and the film’s premise in general seems like it had a lot more potential than the play-it-safe script evokes. Finally, some of the internal logic isn’t always followed, which bothered me a little but again could be easily ignored by most people.
The film’s cinematography wasn’t anything special, but it did a good job framing the budding romance between R and Julie. The movie did employ a really good soundtrack, though, which helped buoy an otherwise ho-hum score. Overall, the movie looked and felt pretty low budget, which it was. The bad CGI had already kind of given that away, though.
Warm Bodies was a very charming movie. Still, to me it seemed like a pretty disposable one. This might become a cult classic for some people, but I don’t really see myself going out of my way to watch it again. Hoult seems like an actor to keep an eye on, though, and I’m a bit more interested to see him in the upcoming Jack the Giant Slayer because of his performance here. I’d say Warm Bodies is for the diehard zombie fans who are looking for something significantly fresh and different from what they’re used to, and for both the Bella and Edward lovers and haters, as they’ll all find something to like here. Overall, there have been worse movies to check out around Valentine’s Day time.