This review contains some spoilers, so if you want to stay completely spoiler-free, stop now! Since this is a book-to-movie site I figure many of you have read the book, so spoilers won’t be an issue.
Warm Bodies is different, quirky, and totally aware of that. The film is a hilarious adaptation of Isaac Marion’s novel, which tells the story of a zombie who falls for a human during the zombie apocalypse. Nicholas Hoult plays the lead role of R, a very unusual zombie who doesn’t just have a hunger for brains. He has a hunger for life, and connection. Teresa Palmer plays Julie, the human that R falls for (who also happens to be a fierce zombie-killer).
When a zombie eats a human’s brains, he takes in the memories of that person. This is part of why R has such a connection to Julie; he eats the brains of her ex-boyfriend, taking in all the moments Julie and him had together. The film starts off a little strange, because of the communication problem for zombies. You’re trying to get used to this world, through R, but it feels a little awkward because of the large amount of space where they had to use voice-over. The zombies can’t talk (at first), they grunt with occasional short words, and therefore the entire movie includes a voice-over of R’s internal monologue. I think the movie suffers a bit at first due to this, because you aren’t completely sure what to make of the movie’s world when you’re so boxed in with R in his head. This book is a very difficult one to adapt. How do you tell a love story on screen when one half of the pair can’t converse with the other at first? Many of the problems with connecting to the character are inevitable. R even says, “I just want to connect.” This is an issue for the movie because that connection between characters, and the connection to the audience is a big part of making a movie work. You can’t have a good movie without connection!
However, this was not the case throughout the entire movie. It gets much better and starts moving forward once you are introduced to the well-developed supporting characters, and things start happening to R. Rob Corddry is fantastic as M, R’s best friend, who I thought perfectly embodied a zombie that has to be almost emotionless in his performance, but still brings across personality! Such a hard line to walk, to try to play a real and interesting character without jumping the line of zombie-appropriate. He has some funny one-liners as well! As a supporting character, he did an incredible job of creating a three-dimentional character with so many challenges and limited screen-time. Annaleigh Tipton in the supporting character of Nora added even more comedy, I always looked forward to seeing her on screen since she also added some quirky hilarity.
As the story continues, you find out that R is changing as he gets to know Julie. His heart starts to beat, he can speak more clearly – being with her is curing him. Once he started to slowly turn human, and you understood what was going on, the movie improved a lot for me. In this story, being a zombie is sort of like a disease with plenty of symptoms. You’re still human underneath, and meeting Julie awakened the small part of humanity left in R. Teresa Palmer and Nicholas Hoult did a great job of creating a connection between the two characters – this involved a lot of great voiceless acting on the part of Nicholas Hoult. He really is amazing at expressing his feelings just through his eyes and facial expressions. Teresa Palmer also gave a fantastic performance in this film, accurately portraying how a real girl would react to a zombie suddenly having a special interest in her. First terror, then disgust. Then…connection! The amazing soundtrack is also a huge part of the film, not just providing background music. The songs punctuated key moments and provided even more great moments of laughter for the audience.
The voice-over also becomes much more effective after these changes in R start taking place. He starts to be able to express himself more, and instead of large amounts of descriptive dialogue, small humorous pieces of voice-over are used for great bursts of comedy. My theater was laughing hard throughout the whole film! The book was much more serious than the movie, they added plenty of hilariousness to the plot. Personally, I believe this was a good choice, even as a fan of the novel. In a novel, you can have a perfect imagination of how this scenario would happen as a serious love story between a creature and a living girl – however, in movie-form, it’s obviously going to have some strangeness. That is the bump that viewers have to get across in the beginning of the film, a zombie falling in love with a human is gross. What kind of girl would fall for a dead guy? However, it ends up working. You believe their relationship. The film-makers know it’s wierd, and they run with it. R’s internal dialogue has constant pieces of classic rom-com hilarity, wondering how to connect to Julie, not wanting to seem pushy, and generally being that “nervous guy” who wants to connect with a girl….but he’s a zombie! Many of the voice-over lines seem to reassure the audience, ‘Yes, we know this is weird, but its okay.’ At first the whole concept for the film may seem too odd, but then it makes total sense. Love does make us human, so if a zombie could learn to love…couldn’t he become human?
As the film closes and we see Julie and R (a clever play on Romeo and Juliet) together as humans, you really believe their connection and it all just works for me. So, while it may start off a little shaky, I think Warm Bodies is ultimately a great adapation and enjoyable film. If you’re ready for some hilarious zombie-romance, head to theaters on February 1, 2013!