Directed by Johnathan Levine
Distributed by Summit Entertainment
I wouldn’t blame you for wanting to give this movie a pass – indeed, this writer never bothered to catch Warm Bodies when it played in theatres. And really, who could blame us? The film’s marketing sold the film as the type of supernatural romance that’s all the rage these days, supplanting the expected vampires or werewolves with the quite popular in their own right walking dead. That’s right, it seems as though Summit Entertainment wanted folks to flock to see Twilight with Zombies, hoping that the implication of necrophilia would be outweighed by how pretty the film’s two leads are.
So, no – not a must-see, this one. Imagine my surprise, then, when I sat down to view the film and discovered a fun, witty little romp with a fresh take on the “undead lovin’” subgenre. And sure, while it may not be a horror flick by any stretch, it’s still well worth a look for those interested in all manner of gutmunching cinema.
Opening some time after the inevitable zombie apocalypse has occurred (only a matter of time, folks), Warm Bodies introduces us to “R” (Hoult), a young hoodie-clad walker who spends his days traipsing about a zombie-infected airport while occasionally engaging in small talk with his best friend, M (Corddry). R, who named himself after what little he remembers of his own name, takes us through his day-to-day existence with a well-spoken voiceover that bears no resemblance to the grunts and groans he’s forced to communicate with in the real world – providing a neat glimpse into zombiedom rarely attempted by most tales of this sort.
R’s life (death?) is shaken up considerably when he meets Julie (Palmer), a lovely young zombie killer whose boyfriend, Perry (Franco), has just been unceremoniously eaten by our corpse-y anti-hero. With Perry’s memories now coursing through R’s brain (a neat twist on zombie mythology), R sees and instantly falls for Julie and sets about protecting her from his zombie brethren. Hiding her away in his makeshift home inside of an airplane, R attempts to win Julie’s trust with his feeble attempts at communication and his unwavering dedication to protecting her from others of his kind (including the “Boneys”, rotted-beyond-all-hope walkers who are little more than bones, hate, and hunger). Eventually, Julie learns to trust him, even as R’s love for her arouses a change within him that may signal the reversal of his condition and the end of the end of the world.
Yes, it’s a “love conquers all” zombie flick. And if that turns you off, I can’t very well blame you. Still, Warm Bodies surprised this reviewer with its clever script. The story is somewhat slight, to be sure, though the film is full of witty dialogue and some neat twists on zombie lore (self-awareness, the aforementioned benefits of brain-eating). And the cast here is pretty solid. Nicholas Hoult is great as R, managing to be convincing as both a zombie and romantic lead. Palmer is good as well, playing Julie with a mix of sweetness and world-weariness in between bouts of zombie ass-kicking. As R’s best bud M, Corddry steals the screen whenever he graces it, with little more than a few perfectly timed looks and grunts. John Malkovich, playing Julie’s father and the leader of the zombie resistance, is wonderful as always, though the movie finds far too little for him to do.
Credit for the movie’s success must also go to director Johnathan Levine, the young filmmaker known for helming 50/50, The Wackness, and the still unreleased 2006 slasher pic All the Boys Love Mandy Lane. Levine keeps the focus on the film’s heart, even while juggling the genre elements and fun action scenes (though the film does drag at times throughout its second act). Props, too, for his bold and fun choices for the film’s many needle drops throughout (the featured songs occasionally communicate the emotions that R is unable to). Between this lighter effort and the considerably darker Mandy Lane, I’m curious to see what Levine has in store for his next visit to our favorite genre.
Summit Entertainment has brought Warm Bodies to disc with impressive video and audio and a load of bonus features. The disc’s image is very sharp, sporting loads of detail with bold colors throughout. In addition, the provided DTS-HD 7.1 track is perfectly fine if not overly fantastic.
However, the Blu-ray really shines with its bonus features. First up, there is an audio commentary with Levine, Hoult, and Palmer, along with an amusing gag reel and the film’s theatrical trailer. There is also a set of home movies from Palmer, a funny Screen Junkies featurette concerning Corddry’s “method” approach to portraying a zombie, and an eleven-minute set of deleted scenes (most of which were expendable, though a rather sweet moment with R and Julie early on in the story really should’ve stayed put).
And then there are a collection of seven featurettes covering the various aspects of the film’s development and production, all equaling nearly an hour and a half of footage. One wishes these pieces could have been edited into one large making-of doc, but that’s a minor quibble. Included here are looks at the original novel and the film’s early development, the various actors populating the film, the makeup effects (from Oscar nominee Adrien Morot), the production design and filming locations, weapons and stunts, and the visual effects work (particularly concerning the CG-animated Boneys). All in all, a satisfying set of bonus features.
Look, if I lost you during the first few paragraphs – I understand. However, for those willing to accept a bit of comedy and romance with their ghouls, there’s a good chance you’ll find much to like here. Warm Bodies is a genuinely fun and engaging film, one that’s certainly worth a watch. If you decide to give it a chance – hope you enjoy.
3 1/2 out of 5
3 1/2 out of 5