We have had enough of zombies in the recent years. Enough of the same old song and dance done with the same “shruggers” that follow a similar generic formula with similar results. It was like most said “Oh hey Walking Dead made a bunch of people love zombies, let’s make the buggers bleed green!” Thus we have an onslaught of zombie films and series! Nothing really groundbreaking in the genre most of the times and instead what used to be a slightly skewed topic for horror films in quality, turned into a landscape of mediocrity. Zombie films trying to be Shaun of the Dead, the next Walking Dead, or something popular enough to gain traction. Sadly that creates a lot of filler to wade through to attempt to find creative ideas. So when I came across Warm Bodies, a zombie film about sentient zombies learning to be human again, I was somewhat interested in the idea. I mean from what I have seen, there hasn’t really been a film executed quite like this. Yet with such a weird project like this, what could one expect from it? Well I can tell you one thing…it ain’t no Romero.
Warm Bodies as a premise sounds interesting, but also a double-edged sword. To convince me and others that zombies can exist with some semblance of personality enough to have inner monologues about talking to girls and freaking out at seeing them naked is a hard sell. Yet there are ways that this could be a unique experience worth seeing, much like the iZombie series. This also removes the deeper messages most of the great zombie films have. Discussing aspects of society and how we work off each other in a time of crisis is kind of lost on a zombie film where zombies can say “Fuck Yeah!” So in a way this film is not going to have some deep message about sociological problems or anything like that. Instead what we get is a zombie version of Romeo and Juliet with a hint of Twilight.
You heard me right, this becomes a bit of a cheesy romance at times. You even have the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet with our two leads, R and Julie. Not exactly the most subtle of references, but it doesn’t mean that this is the Twilight version of Shakespeare with zombies. Though in some instances of R staring a Julie it can come off like Edward staring at Bella sleeping, but this one has more of a reason to it so kudos for being more tactful than Twilight. Now it’s an unfair assumption to feel like this is Twilight with zombies, even though it falls into the same vein of reinventing supernatural creatures, because for all extents and purposes this is a watchable film to some degree. There is a surprising amount of heart to most of the performances and an effective budget for production design. Technically this is a clean film, with a noticeable underuse of John Malkovich, yet when you look at its story overall one can come at from one of two ways.
Warm Bodies is a sweet love story and unique spin to zombies that will be refreshing to those upset with the recent mediocrity of zombie films if they allow the illogical moments to float on by. Then there is my take which is this thing is too illogical to sink my teeth into, lacks the ability to stand on its own two feet without a sort of young adult crutch. My problem with this world isn’t so much that it lacks creativity, since it does differentiate itself from the standard zombie film and oddities such as Fido, it lacks a point. This is a romance story about a zombie who eats the brains of a girl’s boyfriend and falls in love with her creating a sense of humanity in the dead, the suspension of disbelief is meant to be huge. They don’t explain how things happen, whether it is the way Zombies hearts start to beat again or why the “Boneys” exist beyond the fact that they need an antagonistic force. Even the smallest explanation would make some sense, but we are barely given anything defined throughout the film about anything that roughly goes on in this post-apocalyptic world.
The base fact of the matter is that this story is very skeleton in presence, lacking any meat to dive into. Yes the Shakespeare references are there, but why? What is the point of alluding to the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet? Is it supposed to be a joke? A lot of this film feels like that, unnecessary. The reason why most of this film is unnecessary is because we repeat the same thing numerous times for characters. Our two leads primarily are left in this static position throughout most of the beginning of the film where he saves her and then her trying to escape in stupid fashion and ending up in an even worse situation. She does this multiple times, and that means you better get used to hearing the words “Not safe” or “Stay with me”. This allows them to execute a bunch of young adult clichés, like the time lapse connection cliché, listening to 80s music cliché on older equipment, staring at a girl while she is sleeping cliché (yes that one shows up more than one wants in movies). To some degree one could consider this a similar situation to Twilight yet people love this one infinitely more because it’s not Twilight.
There are some fun jokes in this movie, often pulled off by its lead Nicholas Hoult, with some solid visual gags. A lot of the funny jokes told throughout the film either come out of left field and don’t find a place in this type of film (and no reusing the joke does not make it funnier over time), most of the time the jokes done through dialogue or monologue don’t work effectively on their own. I mean do you think “Bitches, man” is something a zombie would say in any stretch of the imagination? Just because they wouldn’t and it sounds so out of left field, doesn’t mean it’s funny. The only reason why I am not coming down as hard as I can on this film for all its weird trappings is because Nicholas Hoult as R really does hold down a lot of his scenes. The zombie cast feel legitimate even if their lines at times are a bit too corny and predictable, even if they can be spur of the moment changes. Hoult’s monologues, his physical humour, his delivery as a zombie, just about all he does is actually pretty good. You can easily fall for him and want to see him succeed in his romantic misadventures, which is not the same I can say about the human counterpart played by Teresa Palmer as often it’s her reacting to him that makes the performance. Her character on the other hand is another story.
Most of the human characters in this story are just, bland or not worth investing in. They try to explain the tragic life of humans, yet also try to keep this a continuous comedy. Most scenes of dour tension is removed by upbeat dialogue and often it just doesn’t mesh. There is something to Julie’s character besides the environmental problems the human race has, but it all boils down to her having a rebellious phase against her father. Her father, played by the great John Malkovich, is literally given nothing here to dig his teeth in. None of the human characters are really besides the lead female, yet she is constantly the damsel in distress or making stupid decisions which lead to worse circumstances for those involved with her. Why have actors like Dave Franco and John Malkovich if you aren’t going to use them much? Why have human characters if they all aren’t as interesting as the zombies? Why does this movie have Boneys in the first place?! So many questions and no explanations to them.
The only other thing worth being slightly upset about for me is the use of music in this film. The soundtrack is generic, fits the scene without thematic significance and only uses songs already released creating a jukebox soundtrack. While these can be good, much like Guardians of the Galaxy proving me wrong about them, Warm Bodies uses them for a cheap laugh or smile in the moment creating more of a sense of “Ahhhh I see what you did there! An upbeat song to zombies shambling along slowly. It’s ironic.” It is not bad listening to the songs, but I often wondered what they were meant to be beyond their superficial purpose creating a soundtrack I would listen to because it has some solid songs from the 80s yet it lacks personality or identity.
What did Warm Bodies do for me? Well it helped me end my interest in looking at zombie films for a while. Warm Bodies was an experience that I could have done without, yet I feel like it was a good experience to have. I think people can have fun with this film, if you submit yourself to the film there is some fun times ahead. I just think that a film like this that wanted to do something different in a topic so bloated, should have something interesting to go along with it. It is a serviceably fluffy movie at its best and a bland illogical mess at its worst, yet I feel like this film more than others one the topic of zombies deserves a chance. It is different, it is a bit more divisive, it is weirder than most, and while it did next to nothing for me others can find a fun time with it. This is a film that won’t be warming my heart any time soon though that’s for sure.
Well this was a good experiment to try to get me back into Zombie films but then helped me stave off my curiosity for a while longer. Good zombie films, to me, are extremely hard to come by and I welcome anything roughly engaging or unique in the genre over the plethora of b-grade material that comes out these days.
So have you watched Warm Bodies? Is there any unique zombie film that you like? Feel free to leave a comment down below and don’t forget to have yourself a fantastic day!