director Jonathan Levine
Warm Bodies attempts to do for zombies what Twilight (2008) et al. did for vampires and werewolves.
Okay, that’s not entirely fair. Warm Bodies is far more comic, charming, fun and tolerable than that Godforsaken multi-logy.
But at the same time it does take the generic post-apocalyptic zombie setting and turn it into a love story about teens. Riffing openly on Romeo and Juliet, which isn’t its inherent strength. It’s told from the internal monologue of hoodie-wearing teen zombie R (Nicholas Hoult), doing a pretty good impression of The Addams Family‘s Lurch. He’s given the moniker of “R” by Julie (Teresa Palmer) after he rescues her (and eats her living boyfriend’s brains), setting us up for the very poor man’s Shakespearean version of teen love and angst.
What I do like about the film is the way that it delves into this “I was a teenage…” I’ve always been kind of partial to this set up. It reflects the teenager’s alienation as embodied in whatever metaphor you fill in the blank with. While this isn’t necessarily the case with the original films of the “title genre” I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957) and I Was a Teenage Frankenstein (1957), it has always been a clever opportunity for delving into the lives of teens and genre while hitting a chord or two in metaphorical analogies.
Okay, I’m struggling to come up with one that really meets my criteria. Maybe it’s all been in my head.
Warm Bodies is quite the I Was a Teenage Zombie, if you will. In this case, awkwardness and sullen grunting of a boy around a pretty girl aren’t just shyness. He’s got no functioning nervous system.
Except he does. In fact, all of the zombies do. Everyone’s “heartlight” gets awoken, as the zombies all come out of their stupors, becoming human again, through the “magic” of “love”. Sorry for all the quotation marks.
But to keep the drama dramatic, since unlike Romeo and Juliet, nobody is drinking poison here, there are more advanced decay zombies called skeletons, who are all computer-generated and completely lacking in humanity. It’s against these villains that the humans and zombies unite and ultimately become friends.
The post-apocalyptic zombie world and the glut of creative material within it has led us to such a place. The zombie metaphor is simply awkward teenagerhood and ultimately we can all just get along if we love and evolve and aren’t mindless brain-eating skeletons.
But really, it’s not bad. Far from great, it still manages to have something. My apology again about the Twilight jibe.