WARM BODIES: review by cinematicus rex, with fog's footnote.
February 2nd 2013 13:59
Previously, the closest cinema had come to hinting that the audience was to enter the mind (as it were) of the zombie was perhaps 1987’s B-flick I Was a Teenage Zombie.
Warm Bodies (from a novel by Isaac Marion) actually delivers on the promise of “I, Zombie” by placing us within the mind of its zombie narrator, R (Nicholas Hoult).
An original premise. So far so good.
As R explains, he can’t remember his name or how he became a zombie because zombies are pretty much terminally confused, retaining only fleeting glimpses of their past.
However, R is obviously together enough to articulate all of that... but never mind the logical inconsistencies, we're here for a bloody good time, right?
To continue, zombies do not fantasise or dream because they don’t sleep either.
They do, however, repetitively perform the kind of mechanical tasks they did before they were changed and they do hunt for food collectively, shambling along in search of survivors of the apocalypse.
Brains are particularly prized, R tells us, because when ingested the zombie experiences the victim’s memories and emotions.
This is as close to really living as it gets for the living dead.
Two types of zombie are to be distinguished: those just described like R and his pal M (Rob Corddry), called “corpses” by the survivors, and the skeletal ones, known as “boneys”, who have pulled their own skins off out of sheer boredom (as you would) and are particularly nasty (as you’d be too).
Nobody, including the survivors holed up and armed within a walled section of the city, knows what caused the apocalypse which occurred eight years earlier.
Anyway, R and M meet every day in an airport lounge where the BFFs (or BZFFs?) grunt about this and that.
R has furnished a nice abode for himself aboard one of the abandoned planes on the tarmac.
In this R is an exceptional zombie, a habitual (albeit, mindless) collector of old vinyl records in particular, which he plays to himself at night.
That’s his basic routine until one day he and his corpse crew sniff out and surprise an expedition of survivors searching for pharmaceuticals, which are in rare supply within the city.
This expedition includes Perry (Dave Franco), his on again/off again girlfriend Julie (Teresa Palmer) whose father (John Malkovich) leads the coalition of the living, and Julie’s BFF Nora (Analeigh Tipton).
During this attack, R kills Perry, eats his brains and immediately gets flashes of Perry’s romantic memories of Julie.
Then R locks his eyes upon Julie and his life as a corpse will never be the same again. Cue violins...
To sum up: Perry is bitten, R is smitten.
Nora manages to hide but R takes Julie with him, fooling the other zombies by smearing blood on her face and encouraging her to act like a zombie but not to overdo the shambling, swaying routine.
Julie can’t wait to escape from R’s Boeing digs but is amazed that he can articulate a few barely audible syllables and maintain some quality of life.
At this point, what one might call the plot’s “Disney moments” start to multiply rapidly and the ubiquitous retro-pop (too often in film a lazy substitute for dialogue and narrative exposition) annoyed me even more than before.
Without giving away this PG13-rated film’s ending, let’s just say that writer-director Jonathon Levine’s ideas and surprises began to dry up and so too did my interest and enjoyment.
In what follows, Julie warms to R. Together they polish his conversation and other social skills and he begins to recover his humanity as well as his heartbeat.
Inevitably, M is converted, then other corpses, until… well, you’ll pick the lame final showdown.
The message? With a little TLC zombies can change!
I was somewhat disappointed by the absence of any recidivist or apostate zombies who decide: “You know what guys? I miss the tedium and stench of death, the thrill of the hunt, the taste and texture of fresh brains…”
In addition, no fight scene was particularly novel or spectacular and, apart from when R snacks secretly on some of Perry's brain leftovers, no scene managed to be simultaneously revolting and funny.
Parallels with Romeo and Juliette are clearly evoked but unfortunately there was to be no unhappy ending.
Obviously, this reviewer has seen too many happy endings but, I ask you, could anyone ever see enough cannibalism?
The acting and special effects are passable and there are some laughs, mostly in the first half, so that the younger audience is likely to come away satisfied.
FOG'S FOOT NOTE:
What should have been a panoply of ironic, awkward and downright up-chucking romantic moments, interspersed with zombie mayhem flooding the screen with blackened blood of the undead, fell half a cadaver short of the splatter load for most zombie enthusiasts.
However, there were numerous amusing moments in the first third or so of the film but, as C.Rex has alluded, they quickly dried up like a newly bitten zombie’s crutch.
The first big fight scene where our two lovers meet, dead eye to eye, was poorly edited and directed with lingering close ups on double take expressions and clumsily choreographed fight action that eliminated the suspension of disbelief as you became aware of the badly executed artifice.
However, again, as CR indicates, other aspects of this film made it interesting and novel, although I did wonder how a rotting corpse who cannot remember anything, and only utter a single monosyllabic grunt in communication, can so eruditely explain the world of the undead.
Then there is the whole ‘coming back to life thing’: a teardrop at first ignites a connection in R’s heart. We know this because the production team decided his heart should glow for a moment... really...
This is the first “ZOM-ROM-COM” ever made, to my knowledge, and thus it represents a mini-milestone in the zombie genre's history. (Note: I have coined the term "ZOM-ROM-COM" to denote the new
genre of romantic zombie films )
[10pm SYDNEY TIME: SUNDAY 3RD FEBRUARY 2013: P.S. Just watching The Graham Norton Show...he is interviewing Nicholas Hoult and his zombie role, and he just said "ZOM ROM COM"...and claimed it as his own...DAMN HIS EYES!] I wrote my review before he came up with ZOM-ROM-COM!!!
One thing though, surely the undead are really ‘on the nose’, so it is perplexing that Julie could not only hang out with zombies, but, even snog one, who hasn't brushed or flossed the brains out of his gob for eight years, without throwing up...
In closing, it's still worth a look for die-hard zombie fans, mainly because it has been awhile since anything original has been contributed to the genre.
I'd also recommend it to those who do not like being scared too much but wish to feel ‘brave’ by seeing a zombie flick.
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