Director: Jonathan Levine
Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer
Length: 98 mins
Based on the novel by Isaac Marion, Warm Bodies follows the life, or perhaps more accurately the death, of a zombie known as ‘R’ (Nicholas Hoult). ‘R’ is not a typical member of the un-dead. He is socially awkward, self-conscious and feels a desperate need to connect with those around him. This uniquely human desire is inevitably frustrated by the fact that everyone with whom he comes into contact is either dead or considered food. However, as if the twist of a self-conscious zombie was not enough, Warm Bodies subverts the now staple structures of the Rom-Zom-Com, as seen in Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland, and has the romance occur between one of the living and one of the dead. When ‘R’ comes across a band of survivors in a desolated city he immediately falls in love with the gun-toting Julie (Teresa Palmer), which instantaneously kicks his heart back into action and therefore gradually makes him ‘warm bodied’, hence the title.
Warm Bodies is reminiscent of other films. Indie filmmaker Bruce LaBruce’s Otto; Or Up With Dead People dealt with similar themes of forbidden love and George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead explored the consequences of a self conscious zombie in the tragic figure of Bub, but it is certainly the first time that such concepts have been realised in mainstream cinema and tailored to a 12A audience. This is perhaps why Warm Bodies is such an innocuous and uninspiring film. The original and initially quite alluring idea of a self-conscious, love-forlorn zombie has clearly been moulded and polished in a way that would satisfy the tween Twilight audience, and the consequences of this are that the film loses the bulk of its zesty originality and is left to lifelessly shuffle through 98 minutes of a perfectly inoffensive but fundamentally boring story. One could say, rather charitably, that the film’s pace purposely resembles the perambulations of the very figures it is depicting, but this doesn’t alleviate the fact that despite its short running time the film still feels like it goes on for hours.
Unlike Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland, Warm Bodies fails to break up the action with a steady stream of decent gags, squandering all its comedic potential in Nicholas Hoult’s opening monologue. Hoult is endearing as a zombie who wishes to do more than eat the flesh of the living, but his ultimate change from scourge of the living to romantic interest is never satisfactorily realised. He is simply not scary, and from the moment we see him it is clear that his depiction of a zombie is in a similar vein to that of Robert Pattinson’s Edward Cullen rather than Gary Oldman’s Count Dracula. In fact all the walking dead in Warm Bodies have very little macabre allure and simply appear to be a ragtag group of half-hearted goths. Even John Malkovich, as Julie’s domineering father, fails to provide his usually unhinged and maniacal quality to the film and seems to be simply going through the motions in his depiction of excessive masculinity.
Warm Bodies is insufficient in its attempt to provide the Zombies and the Comedy, and unfortunately this is true for the Romance as well. Teresa Palmer is simply unbelievable as the woman who manages to rekindle human emotions in the un-dead. This is partly due to her rather generic depiction of a rebellious teenager, which has none of the charm of Emma Stone’s portrayal of a similar role in Zombieland. However, the majority of the blame should be attributed to the writers, who created a part that seems more suited to the likes of a high school drama, rather than a film set during the apocalypse. Warm Bodies is inadequate as Rom, Zom or Com and is instead bland and formless. Perhaps it is time to realise that this particular genre of film has finally been mined of its original potential.