There were some films that I saw near the end of 2012 where the trailer for Warm Bodies was the best thing about the experience. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a zombie movie.
It turns out that I don’t have a lot of zombie experience. I’ve seen Shaun of the Dead lots, obviously, & the remake of Dawn of the Dead because it was sold in a 2-pack with Shaun and I love Sarah Polley and also deals.
But aside from those, my main zombie points of reference are 28 Days Later (clearly, as I am a Danny Boyle fan), Black Sheep, Dead and Deader (where Dean Cain is So Manly that he manages to halt the transformation at half-human/half-zombie after being bitten by a zombie scorpion), Remington and the Curse of the Zombadings (about which the less said the better), and, of course, Zombieland.
So, having not seen any of the true zombie classics, I don’t feel terribly qualified to speak to Warm Bodies as it relates to Zombies In Our Culture. However, it does seem to me to be an unusual entry, in that it is an optimistic zombie romance. Even Shaun of the Dead, the original romzomcom, can’t truly be called optimistic, or even a romance, the core bromance of all Pegg/Frost productions notwithstanding.
In most other zombie movies, once you’re a zombie, that’s it. You’re a drunk who’s lost a bet, lurching about, hunting for brains. If you’re a zombie in Warm Bodies you are definitely still lurching, still hunting for brains, but unless you’ve gone full-skeletor you have within you the possibility of change. You have the potential for friendship, and maybe even for love. You have an identity. You just don’t quite remember what it is.
Nicholas Hoult plays R, a zombie who lives at an airport. He’s your classic symbol-of-consumerism zombie, hoarding treasures of an abandoned world in a grounded plane. R’s working vocabulary is limited, but he gives good voiceover. Out on a hunt he encounters Julie (Teresa Palmer), and makes the choice to save her rather than eating her undoubtedly tasty brains. And yes, it took me another half hour to notice that their names are R & Julie & thus in addition to being an optimistic zombie movie it’s *also* an optimistic twist on Romeo & Juliet. I’m slow on the uptake, but at least I’m honest about it.
Objectively, it’s not a great movie. It’s awkwardly paced, especially until Julie is saved. But I have to give it a lot of points for going all-in on a new (at least to me) zombie mythology, and for the incredibly likable work of the core cast. I want to believe that Nicholas Hoult always runs like a zombie (especially down escalators), Teresa Palmer & Analeigh Tipton are great fun as zombie hunters coming to terms with this changing world, and Rob Corddry as R’s friend M is surprisingly charming. Charming zombies! Who knew?
It’s ridiculous, but it made me happy, which is sometimes all you want from a movie. It’s fun, it’s different, & Hoult is adorable. As a zombie. Sounds like a great Valentine’s Day option to me.
(Someone who knows more about vampire & zombie mythology than I do could write a piece on Warm Bodies as the anti-Twilight. His love for Julie inspires R to reclaim his humanity, whereas Bella’s love for Edward causes her to give hers up. Free idea!)
((There’s also actually room for comparison to Wristcutters: A Love Story, particularly in small worldbuilding details, like how Hoult never blinks as a zombie & no one ever smiled in the afterlife. Also the dark but still sweet tone & the post-apocalyptic cinematography is very similar.))