Also up at Channel 24.
What it's about
Set after the events of a Zombie Apocalypse, Warm Bodies tells the story of a most unusual star-crossed romance between Julie (Teresa Palmer), a human girl, and R (Nicholas Hoult), a zombie boy. Is their burgeoning love doomed to fail, though, or might it be the unlikely key to the salvation of human kind?
What we thought
While Warm Bodies may well look, at first glance, to be little more than yet another Twilight cash-in, it's inspiration is clearly far, far older – and more classic – than that. It is, in effect, very clearly William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (hint: check out the names of the two main characters) but with zombies and more gags. It's also Romeo and Juliet transformed from a tragedy into a comedy, as is ends up saying the precise opposite of Romeo and Juliet's ultimately tragic message.
It is also very clearly heavily indebted to two far more recent stories – and, again, neither of which is Twilight. First and foremost, however much the PR-machine behind Warm Bodies is trying to push the film as the first ever rom-zom-com (romantic zombie comedy), that title clearly belongs to the already classic rom-zom-com, Shaun of the Dead. And no, there is no way in hell that writer/ director Jonathan Levine is unaware of that Simon Pegg/ Edgar Wright sleeper hit, seeing as how (if you excuse the rather disturbing pun) its finger prints are all over Warm Bodies.
And then, of course, there is Zombieland, which is actually probably the film that this is closest to in tone and, well, nationality. First-person narration? Check. Young, attractive and talented young actors? Check again. Indie sensibility? You betcha. Romance, comedy, zombies and gun-toting action? Check, check and check again. Bill Murray? Well, we can't have everything, unfortunately.
The film, in short, wears its influences on its sleeves (and yes, I suppose there is a wee drop of Twilight in there as well) but that doesn't mean it isn't very worthwhile on its own terms. Jonathan Levine has already proven himself to be one of the best new writer/ directors with his excellent 50/ 50, which was, to my mind, one of the best and most underrated films of 2011 and, though Warm Bodies isn't quite on that level, he has once again crafted a top-notch, genre-bending film that works way better than it probably should.
His dialogue is sharp, his comedy funny and his human moments genuinely touching – but then we already knew all this from 50/50. He also apparently happens to be rather good at nutso fantasy action, which is rather crucial for a zombie film, but there's no doubt that Warm Bodies works better as a character-driven romantic comedy than as a zombie film. As such, it isn't quite up there with Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead, but hey, what is?
What Warm Bodies does have going for it, above all else, is a sense of warmth, appropriately enough. Good guys, bad guys, zombies, humans – all of the characters in the film are immensely likeable and, despite it having a rather absurd romance, you really do want it to work out for R and Julie. Also, for a post-apocalyptic movie, it's surprisingly upbeat, even when grizzly (though PG13) stuff happens. The comedy too, though warped and twisted is still kind of... nice! OK, so the “bony” zombies (zombies that are so far gone, they're little more than skeletons) are less nice but they're done in rubbish CGI so they're barely there anyway.
The cast too more than hold up their side of the bargain with Rob Corddry, Analeigh Tipton and, in typically hammy form, John Malkovich adding great support to main players, Palmer and Hoult. The latter continues his transition from excellent child star in About a Boy to proper, really good adult actor, while this may well be the breakout role for the former, who still looks a bit like Kristen Stewart, though not quite as much as when we last saw her in the silly but fun Take Me Home Tonight. As an Ozzie and a Brit, respectively, they also do very passable American accents.