Hollywood’s latest efforts to exploit the more vulnerable side of yet another mythological creature – in this case a zombie – shouldn’t really come as a surprise. With the departure of glittery vampires, giant werewolves and insipid teenagers, it’s only been a question of time before another unlikely romance between the ‘not-so-dead’ and the living hits the screen again.
Based on Isaac Marion’s popular novel of the same name, director Jonathan Levine makes a decision to take the mythology of Zombies in a different direction. Adding a healthy dose of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Warm Bodies, fails to deliver the same sense of warmth and integrity as the original love story.
Warm Bodies opens up with the introduction of R (Hoult) who, through an internal monologue provides the voice-over narration for the entire film, talks about his experiences as a zombie. Unable to recall his full name or his life pre-zombiehood, R, along with his fellow brain-starving buddies, spends most of his days aimlessly shuffling around the post-apocalyptic ruins of a human-free airport. When he’s not busy wolfing down an occasional brain or two – which not only provides a healthy food source but also allows them to absorb their victim’s memories – R sometimes indulges in a grunt-only chitchat with his best-bud, and a fellow zombie, M (Corddry).
During their hunt for food deep into the city, R and his un-living companions come across a young group of human resistance fighters. Having left the security of their walled up city, run by the commanding hand of Grigio (Malkovich), in order to search for some much-needed medical supplies, the group soon falls under the radar of the hungry zombies. When R wolfs down Perry’s (Franco) brains, the affectionate thoughts he had for his girlfriend, Julie (Palmer), become a part of R and he quickly falls for the feisty blonde. He spares her life and takes her back to the safety of the airport and the abandoned 747 jet that he calls home.
Warm Bodies probably looked better on paper than it did on film. A funny zombie-apocalypse story with a strong supplement of puppy love, highly influenced by the story of Romeo and Juliet – balcony scene included – should work, right? But it doesn’t. Failing to take full advantage of this mash-up of genres, Warm Bodies is unsure of what it wants to be and relying merely on the quirkiness of the concept only leads to a weak premise.
Warm Bodies‘ zombies drive cars, listen and appreciate vinyl records for their better sound quality and have no problem engaging in conversations – all the while being completely brain dead.
As the star-crossed lovers, both Palmer and Hoult handle their characters well. Hoult’s hunching and grunting satisfy the zombie prerequisites and Palmer, as the blonde version of Kristen Stewart, throws in just enough feistiness to keep her character alive and likable.
With its kicking soundtrack making up for a lot of its shortcomings, Warm Bodies is somewhat tiresome, unoriginal and unexpectedly tepid.