With television shows, such as AMC's The Walking Dead, and countless feature films, zombies are starting to become the "new" vampires. The Twilight Saga sparked an insane amount of interest in teenagers, and even some of their parents. Now that one popular phenomenon has ended, something must come along to take its place. This is where Summit Entertainment's Warm Bodies swoops in to spark a similar interest for zombies. Genre fans may not be happy, but this is a big step up from Stephenie Meyer's overly dramatic franchise. Audiences should just be glad that our characters don't sparkle this time around.
R (Nicholas Hoult) is a highly unusual zombie who roams the airport along with numerous other infected beings. After attacking a group of the uninfected with a horde of zombies, he falls in love with a beautiful blonde named Julie (Teresa Palmer). R keeps her safe and hides her from other zombies, as the two begin to develop a relationship. A sequence of events are set in motion that transform not only R, but the entire world of the living and the dead.
Warm Bodies opens itself very well. The film begins in the airport, as we hear R's thoughts, which is when he starts summarizing what he remembers about himself. Jonathan Levine's screenplay is quite witty in the beginning with a large amount of unique tweaks made to the zombie sub-genre. The majority of them are smart and Levine intertwines plenty of humor that will surely receive some laughs. The dialogue holds up quite well, but R is this picture's secret weapon. He's an interesting character that has a lot more depth than we're initially led to believe. The viewers aren't told very much about who he was before he was infected, but our lack of knowledge makes him that much more intriguing. From the moment he meets Julie, he instantly begins to change. He realizes that he's never felt more alive and "in the moment" than when they're together.
Even though I'm generally not a fan of romantic flicks, Warm Bodies manages to create a genuine relationship between R and Julie. Viewers will instantly care about their outcome, as everybody in the theater will be rooting for them to end up together. You'll be able to predict every single plot point, but the journey is what makes it worth watching. Unfortunately, the set-up is the strongest portion of the entire motion picture. It draws audiences in with a witty script and a couple decent characters, but it begins to lose some steam through the second and third acts. The humor doesn't work as well as it did in the beginning, primarily due to a lot of forced jokes. Nora's (Analeigh Tipton) presence improves the atmosphere a little bit, but she has an incredibly small amount of screen time. On the other end of the spectrum, Julie's father, Grigio (John Malkovich), doesn't feel entirely necessary. They just had to incorporate the "hard-ass" father into the equation somewhere.
With a reasonably short 97-minute running time, Warm Bodies could have benefited from being just a little bit longer. The third act is utterly bare, when it could have transformed into a much more cohesive and tense finale. The romantic aspects of the film take complete control, which ultimately leaves the picture feeling a little bit overdone. Regardless, this is still an entertaining piece of filmmaking. While I haven't read the original novel, Jonathan Levine did a solid job with the screenplay, especially by providing audiences with a good amount of witty dialogue and a structure you'd expect to see in a novel.
Even though there are some rough spots, the performances are suitable. Nicholas Hoult turns in a good representation for the majority of the movie, but he has some difficulties expressing the transition. Fortunately, he has worthwhile chemistry on screen with Teresa Palmer, who plays Julie. These two actors truly make the audience care about the feelings they share for each other. After seeing R and Julie's interactions, one can't help but want everything to work out for them. Analeigh Tipton helps the third act breathe through the role of Nora. It's a shame that this supporting role has such a limited amount of screen time. John Malkovich is known for his over-the-top performances, but he's a lot more restrained as Julie's father. This character doesn't give him very much to work with, but he does what he can. Jonathan Levine works well with this ultimately satisfying cast.
The makeup has always been one of the most crucial aspects of a zombie flick. Warm Bodies holds back on the gory effects, due to it's PG-13 rating, although the zombies look pretty good. There's a lot of detail put into R's decaying body, which also shows through the extras. "Normal" zombies aren't the only danger to humans, as some infected beings have ripped off their own flesh and will eat anything with a heartbeat. Unfortunately, these creatures look extremely cheesy. A lot more effort could have been put forth in designing these dangerous beings. Aside from that, this apocalyptic world looks believable.
Who would have thought that a PG-13 rated zombie romance flick would be so entertaining? Well, it certainly keeps your attention from start to finish. There's a large amount of fresh material explored, but I wish that the witty writing provided in the first act could have lasted through the entire running time. Genre fans will be pleased to know that Warm Bodies doesn't harm the zombie origins as The Twilight Saga hurt vampires. Isaac Marion's source material doesn't stomp on the core of the zombie origins, but simply takes the genre into a different direction. This film isn't the best of its kind, but it's still worth the price of admission.