Director: Jonathan Levine
Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Rob Corddry, John Malkovich
Running Time: 97 mins
Release: 8 Nov
R (Nicholas Hoult) is a zombie. Julie (Teresa Palmer) is a human. Their houses divided, surely love could not blossom between these star crossed lovers? Clumsy classical aspirations aside, Warm Bodies kicks off as R’s dormant heart suddenly starts to beat upon encountering Julie, spurring his slow return to humanity. In addition to overcoming the obvious, R must contend with the fact that eating her old boyfriend’s brains might not be the healthiest start to their relationship. Julie’s overprotective father (John Malkovich) serves as a final obstacle on their rocky road to romance, being something of a traditionalist.
It’s never an easy feat to craft a successful screen romance, and it’s even tougher to pull off if one of the parties involved happens to be a corpse. It’s an unmistakably absurd premise, and the film simply doesn’t cover the ground needed to make it believable. Hoult’s pining—and actually pretty funny—narration certainly gets us halfway there, however Julie’s attitude towards her rotting suitor is a beguiling indifference. It’s understandable that being kidnapped by the walking dead is no one’s idea of a great first date, but a talking/feeling/generally quite nice zombie is not something to sniff at. In fact the character is a fountain of inexplicable decisions, running away at all the wrong times and generally acting in ways unsuited to anyone with aspirations of surviving a zombie apocalypse.
Warm Bodies may primarily be a love story, but it’s still a zombie film, despite how little interest it expresses in working with the heritage of the genre. Your average paper cut is gorier than this entire film, a fact as distracting as it is perplexing, especially during what should be gruesome action sequences. Last year’s Hunger Games managed to convey brutal combat through little more than clever cinematography, and unlike Warm Bodies it didn’t feel like it was pandering to its young audience and a 12 rating. This film has been thoroughly neutered, punctuated by an out of place indie rock soundtrack that just reinforces how fawning the whole thing is.
Despite tripping over its undead roots, the film does at least squeeze some Romeroesque social commentary out of its stumbling hordes, serving up a healthy allegory on the hazards of xenophobia. Plus it certainly makes for an interesting twist on the unspoken undercurrents of necrophilia that run throughout the stale supernatural romance genre.
Considering the pedigree of its director (Johnathan Levine, 50/50), the promise of its premise and the heights reached by its contemporaries like Shaun of the Dead and Zombie Land, Warm Bodies is a major disappointment. Pandering, inconsistent and frustratingly restrained, it’s a film best left buried.