Title: Warm Bodies
Are We Over Zombies Yet? Not quite. And you still have World War Z to look forward to in July.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Four John Waites out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Zombie meets girl, zombie eats girl's boyfriend's brains to get memories of girl, zombie tries to learn to love again.
Tagline: "Cold body. Warm heart."
Better Tagline: "All this and BRRAAAAAINS too."
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: If getting old is a drag, as the Rolling Stones once said, then being dead is a real bummer. No one knows this as well as "R" (Nicholas Hoult), a zombie whose existence is limited to aimless wandering and occasional hunting trips with ersatz best friend "M" (Rob Corddry). During one of these, he becomes enamored with a human survivor named Julie (Teresa Palmer) and, in order to save her, takes her back to his "lair" (an abandoned 747 littered with artifacts of the old world, a la WALL-E). Can two people from different
worlds states of being find a way to make it work in a post-apocalyptic wasteland?
I hope that isn't the tagline from Mad Max: Fury Road.
"Critical" Analysis: Are you sick of zombies? I'm a little sick of zombies, which is a drag because I love zombies. I've been a zombie fan ever since I watched Dawn of the Dead at a high school party where everyone else was drinking beer, smoking, making out, and generally behaving like normal teenagers.
Sophomore Girl: "Hey, would you like to feel under my shirt?"
Pete: "Go away, this dude's getting his head chopped off by a helicopter."
Jesus, what an idiot.
Still, the idea of a "zombie romance" makes sense. We've had friendly zombies ("Bub" from Day of the Dead, Fido) and penitent zombies (ParaNorman), so why not a zombie who gets the girl (in the traditional -- not cannibalistic -- sense)?
[I'm selectively ignoring Nekromantik and others movies along those lines. You're welcome.]
Writer/director Jonathan Levine (The Wackness, 50/50) understands our pain, and addresses them straight out of the gate. R is fully aware of the monotony of the walking dead's existence. Trudging endlessly through a ransacked airport terminal along with several hundred of his fellow animated corpses, his internal dialogue laments the sameness of existence and the dearth of memories.
It's why they eat brains, you see. Unlike in Return of the Living Dead, where the zombies consumed brains to soothe "the pain of being dead," R and his fellow corpses use them to experience their prey's memories and emotions. So when he spots Julie among a group of humans foraging for medicine, chowing down on boyfriend Perry's cerebellum seems like the perfect way to get to know her better.
I will say this, if you're the type of person liable to get worked up over zombie minutiae, Warm Bodies may not be for you. These zombies are slow, until they're fast; they eat flesh but aren't continuously ravenous. They're capable of fine motor coordination and don't rot (until they give up hope and peel off their skin to become the sinister "Bonies"). More importantly, for purposes of the plot, they may not be entirely dead.
Working from Isaac Marion's novel, Levine (you'll pardon the expression) breathes new life into the genre, bringing us the often overlooked melancholy that's a secondary by-product of the collapse of civilization.
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But he wouldn't be able to pull it off without his cast, especially Hoult, who is just the right combination of sarcasm and angst. It doesn't hurt that few of the undead look especially "dead." With his sunken eyes and ghostly pallor (and absent the blackened neck veins and rotting hoodie), R might as well be another kid at a Bauhaus tribute concert. Julie is also a refreshingly capable female protagonist, dealing with her situation as realistically as can be expected.
It kind of reminded me of Twilight, if that movie had an engaging cast, intelligent script, coherent story, and didn't make me want to eat a bullet.
Warm Bodies is in theaters today. See it with someone stiff.