Is this a parody or a ripoff? Warm Bodies is so up front with its copies — copies– of Twilight that, judging from the trailer alone, by the time it hit theatres, I was sure it had to be a straight-up uppercut to tweener romance. I’m not so sure now.
But I am certain that the leads, Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer, were chosen for their resemblances to Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart (respectively, I think), both in looks and in their mutual tendency to overact. The story, however, is lifted from Romeo and Juliet
and Zombies — and at least anyone who has yet to take freshman literature should be able to make the connection between Juliet and Julie (Palmer) and R (Hoult) and Romeo. That gets a pass though, since Shakespeare probably stole the story from somewhere else.
Anywho, Julie and R live in your standard zombie apocalypse. A big wall separates the humans from the Corpses (as they’re so called). And there’s a special subset of Corpses called “Bonies” (feel free to giggle like a high-school freshman who has yet to read Romeo and Juliet yet) — these are the folks who’ve decomposed to the point of full-on skeletalization. Somehow they’re still able to move and sniff, but there’s more than a few suspensions of disbelief.
Julie’s father, General Grigio (John Malkovich), commands the free humans, and apparently all the young’ns are required to go out into the city and scavenge for supplies. On one raid, Julie’s current beau gets thwomped and eaten by R, who, although he cannot pronounce polysyllabics, nevertheless has a continuously running inner monologue. R kidnaps Julie and takes her back to his zombie-lair — an abandoned airplane that has more legroom than any plane likely to be in existence. Also, a turntable and the kind of record collection a hipster who dislikes the classics would still have out of principle.
R doesn’t want to eat Julie, however, he just wants to Bonie her, which is the kind of thing zombies apparently want after eating a girl’s boyfriend’s brains. Part of the reason being that in this universe the zombies can acquire the memories of people after eating their brains. Nevermind that these memories are never from the perspective of the individual; it’s always the back of the head or directly in front. And different parts of the brain yield different memories — it’s like those Harry Potter jellybeans! New recollection with each bite!
So Julie at first tries to escape, finding herself surrounded by zombies. R shows up for the rescue, telling Julie to act like a zombie to fool the rest. She struggles with it, which is odd seeing as how five minutes earlier she was walking with R through a horde of them during her abduction, but forget that. And by the way, “R” can’t remember his original name when Julie asks him, but he does recall the letter it started with, so they just stop at that. That’s how he got his name.
As R’s attraction to Julie grows, he grunts out a lie that it’s not safe for her to leave yet. Cut to the next day, where they’re joyriding around the airport in a lovely BMW convertible. Why she can’t take off in it isn’t explained since the zombies can’t move that fast. Except when they want to. That’s also not very clear. Nor is the way zombies’ hearts work when, well, that’s a spoiler, which is too bad because the movie has a very clever twist in the second half that actually covers new ground within the genre. It also doesn’t dwell too long on the usual complications, another nice touch.
Despite all the logical inconsistencies, the way it tries to include every camera technique from flashbacks to split-screens like a demo reel (Jonathan Levine, if you’re reading this, after 50/50 I trust you can do damn near anything), the way it tries to joke around with abrupt halts in music and action, and my constant snarky asides in this review, this really isn’t so bad.
Hoult especially overdoes the zombie bit (and relishes in the fact that being a zombie lets him be all wide-eyed and pouty-lipped), but he’s sort of like Slim Pickins in Dr. Strangelove — no one told him what kind of movie they’re making. I wish I could say that’s intentional, but probably not. Whatever. I did have fun with this, and there’s an undercurrent of silliness to every deficiency. I think it’s aware that it’s trying to mimic a formula, and if you could accuse the film of it, it’d just grin. It’s not outright self-mocking, but it’s not so serious as to scold you for laughing.