When director George A. Romero made his classic Night of the Living Dead in 1968, it revolutionized the film industry with the Undead genre. Dozens upon dozens of filmmakers added onto his foundation of horror and since that point, hundreds of films about the iconic 'zombie' have been released. The public as a whole generally accepted of the class of movies, but not all that glitters is gold with zombie flicks. A staggering majority of so-called "undead horror" movies failed to spook audiences, and others fail to even provoke a response other than a sarcastic chuckle.
George A. Romero showed the public how scary a movie can be. Nowadays, however, director Jonathan Levine has decided to take the legendary zombie figure and do something rather unorthodox –give him feelings and make it funny, to boot. In the film Warm Bodies, based off a novel of the same name by Isaac Marion, a lone undead begins to develop a primitive conscious, and slowly but surely starts to literally change back into a human by developing feelings. A cross between Romeo and Juliet and Shaun of the Dead, this film is commendably hilarious as the dark, romantic comedy presents itself.
The plot is told from the point of view of a zombie known to himself only as R (yes, just the letter R) telling of his monotonous life as a member of the legions of undead that now inhabit the earth after some unmentioned apocalypse-like event. Tragically outnumbered, the last bastions of humanity seek refuge in overcrowded, dirty stadiums.
Continuing an endless loop of roaming an airport and occasionally feasting on a lost human, R begins to have thought processes, something he is confused with at first, but soon embraces as being "better than the others." He eventually attacks a group of stranded teenagers with a mob of zombies, and tears apart one of the unlucky youngsters. Devouring his brain, R is able to somehow absorb the boy's thoughts and memories and, as a result, immediately falls in love with the girl whom the now-deceased kid had a crush on. Julie, the heroine and love interest, is frighteningly saved by R, and he takes her back to his makeshift home, the inside of a useless 747 passenger jet. As he shows her how he is changing back into a normal human, the duo soon learn much from each other and laughably fall for one another, making for an ultimately sweet and amusing story.
At the beginning of Warm Bodies, I felt as though I was in for just another attempt to make a farce of zombie films. I soon realized I could not have been more wrong. The relatively original plot and characters, coupled with brilliant acting from a lesser-known cast make for a brilliant trip to the cinema. Though it is a comedy, the movie does have its serious sides –scenes of humans being horribly eaten, annihilated landscapes and irreversibly evolved zombies known as Bonies, who are the real "bad guys" of this flick, are able to sprinkle in action and suspense into an otherwise silly and charming tale.
Along with the zombie romantic comedy aspects, affectionately abbreviated "zom-rom-com," this unexpected film also has themes of how disconnected humans are nowadays as a result of the advancement of technology. The first few shots of the film first show a pre-zombified airport, filled with people scurrying past each other to use their smartphones, mechanically avoiding eye contact all the while. Once the zombies stalk the earth, very little has changed –husks of "living things" still shuffle past each other with little regard for their environment. It was able to get a secondary point across, but the vital point of the film is to make a generally feared creature be seen as a loving and uplifting character.
With all movies like this (including Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland), there are a few negative things to be said. For starters, the capability for the movie to have comedic aspects is sometimes overshadowed by its unnecessary attempts to make the audience laugh. Some jokes are either unamusing or hard to detect, and trying to figure them out can detract from the plot. Along with plot, a second point to make is a tendency for films such as Warm Bodies to get off-track and desperately try to continue to the ending, much like The Polar Express when it was skidding on that icy lake.
Just barely, though, the other points in Warm Bodies save it from an unpleasant demise in the junk bin that contains most "undead" movies. R’s use of pop music and well-known classic songs to convey the emotions his words cannot should resonate with anyone who has ever made a mixtape or Spotify playlist for a crush, while images of zombies trying and failing to play catch or open umbrellas prove to be simple but amusing gags. I, for one, was pleasantly surprised by how this movie managed to conduct itself, far surpassing my expectations. A movie that began with only a handful of lines was able to make them all funny, few and far between though they may have been. As it progressed, it lived up to its quirky love story hints and comedy rivaling that of successes like 21 Jump Street and Ted.
Although it did not break any molds or go above and beyond, Warm Bodies was, for all intents and purposes, an easily watchable date movie that anyone with a pulse can enjoy.
~ This review was submitted by Dylan Lewis