Warm Bodies: Over 15's Need Not Apply
Warm Bodies, the necrophilia-inciting love romp, suffers horribly from overdosing on the 'Twilight treatment'. It bulges with a hip soundtrack and an infuriating inability to leave anything to ambiguity. It's nice to imagine Jonathan Levine's satirical rom-zom-com was at one stage provocative, or aimed at an audience older than 15. After a Summit Entertainment marketing attack, however, the remains are simply scraps of a well-made film that wash over you imperceptibly. The complexity of the film starts at 'twisted adaptation of Romeo and Juliet', and ends with, 'but really, what if Romeo was a zombie?'. The film is littered with references to the overused Shakespearian love-conundrum, including its very own balcony scene as well as naming the main characters 'R' and 'Julie'. And therein lies Warm Bodies' mortal flaw: it batters you about the ears with uninteresting sentimentality and teen-angst humour, lacking any semblance of the subtle approach.
While the cast is one of reasonable talent, the script is devoid of the comedic punch of its forebear, Shaun of the Dead, stunting attempts at any well-rounded characterisation. It doesn't help that Nicholas Hoult plays himself (albeit, with a little more personality), as does veteran John Malkovich and the innocuous Dave Franco. It's alarming when the undead in a zombie film display as much emotional complexity as their living counterparts. However, the real standout is prolific Aussie, Teresa Palmer, who plays Julie with such emotional finesse, she surpasses the merits of the film itself. Much of it relies on awkward chit-chat, or chit-grunt, between the protagonists, so it's a relief that Palmer has the maturity to play her role with believability. This whole lopsided approach undermines any romantic overtones and you're left assuming that the attraction between R and Julie is based on their taste in music. Which is far less plausible, as upon their initial meeting, R is feasting on the brains of Julie's lover.
While it may be a slight improvement on the formula, Warm Bodies will still be branded and shackled with its vampiric counterparts. But when did the soundtrack, as a concept, enter so heavily into the planning of the film? There isn't a scene that passes that doesn't blast Bon Iver, The National or Feist, like a demented Rolling Stone playlist. Does the audience really benefit from hearing M83 while watching a zombie shower? And did Levine really think the analogy of the 'heart' was too subtle, that he had to include Springsteen's 'Hungry Heart' as well? Rather than adding to the thematics at hand, the jarring inclusion of this alternative playlist simply detracts from the action on screen. This is exacerbated as the first half of the film is dreary and slow, plodding along like its protagonist as it clumsily fumbles with the idea of loneliness.
Purist Zombie fans will also be disappointed by the film's incapability at playing by any of its own rules. It's understandable that Levine attempted to depart from the lore of Zombie films of old, but he still has to apply logic at all times. When a Zombie eats a brain, they assimilate their victim's memories, though the Zombie itself is incapable of retaining its own. While suffering from this intense amnesia, the Zombie can still speak, understand speech and even joke. At first, the film postulates that R is a unique case, a next step in Zombie evolution. However, it goes on to show that all other Zombies are capable of the same levels of intellect and emotion, rendering the Zombie plight completely pointless. And then there's the business of R viewing Julie as love, not food and even going so far as to convince his compatriots, without speaking, to view her likewise. All of this would be forgivable folly had Levine stuck the landing on any of the film's other facets. However, the mechanics of the story never quite reach a point of solid plausibility, rendering the climactic ending genuinely unfulfilling.
Concluding Zombie Wordplay:
-Warm Bodies ultimately has the antithetical effect on the audience: it leaves you feeling dead inside.
-It's ironic that Warm Bodies uses the same techniques to reach an audience as it does in killing zombies: bash them on the head.