Originally published 09/02/13
Based on the best seller by Isaac Marion, “Warm Bodies” is the story of R, a zombie who wants more from his existence than a diet of flesh and brains. When he meets and rescues Julie, a young woman from one of the last settlements of humanity,a chain reaction starts which not only has ramifications for R himself, but zombies and humans alike.
I read Isaac Marion’s novel late last year (please check out my review) and I was eager to see the film adaptation even before I read the novel.
So, how did the film stack up against the book? Well, as in a lot of film adaptations that I’ve seen, very well for different reasons – due to the fact that the “language” of film is different to that of a book.
In his dual role as scriptwriter and director, Jonathan Levine has built upon his success of his previous film, the excellent “50/50”.
As a scriptwriter, he takes the original storyline and bases the film around the main structures of it, including the majority of the characters and the situations that feature in the books. However, there are elements that are changed – some of them large scale (if you know the novel), such as R’s “wife” not making an appearance and the fate of Julie’s father being changed at the end of the film, some of them smaller scale, such as R’s musical tastes where in the novel he loves Sinatra, in the film he loves Springsteen and Dylan.
The tone of the film is slightly different to that of the book. The book felt more like a satire on modern society with a good dollop Shakespeare, namely Romeo and Juliet, and a dry sense of humour. All of these elements are present in the film, but there is an addition of a story style which will chime with the YA audience within the film.
As a director, Levine makes some nice stylistic choices to sell the progression of the story, chief amongst these are the opening credits sequence where R has a monologue describing his state of mind and the post-zombie society in which he lives, the montage sequences that provides a background into the life of Perry (Julie’s boyfriend who meets a grisly fate early in the film, the parallel hunts by R and Perry which is the cause of R’s and Julie’s meeting, and a direct steal of the balcony scene from “Romeo and Juliet”.
On the acting front, there are great performances all round amongst the leads and main supporting cast.
Nicholas Hoult’s star continues to be in the ascendancy as he builds upon a carrerr that contains credits for films and television series such as “X-Men:First Class”, “Skins” and “About A Boy”. His performance as R is the real highlight of this film. R is a bit of a slacker to start with, he even says that by his clothing he could be unemployed. However, Hoult breathes life (pun intended) and charm into the role through the character’s internal monologue, which is vocally externalised as the film progresses whilst the character seeks to regain his humanity. That said, Hoult possesses a talent for comedic timing and an ability to translate R’s off-screen internal monologue into actions and gestures which can raise a laugh and gain the audience’s sympathy in equal measure, despite R’s actions early in the film and the scenes where he gets a “high” from eating Perry’s brain.
Teresa Palmer follows up her performances in films such as “Bedtime Stories”, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and “I Am Number Four” with her role as Julie. Palmer portrays the role pretty much as I saw the character in the novel. She has to sell Julie’s journey from unwilling soldier, to frightened woman, to friend and, finally, to love interest and heroine. Palmer’s partnership with Hoult is the stuff of YA romance, whilst adding in a comedic element which compliments that of her co-lead whilst not making either character appear goofy.
Given that the film is about as something as large as a zombie apocalypse, the supporting cast is very small with Rob Corrdry in the role of R’s friend, M, and John Malkovich delivering an understated, yet commanding, performance in the role of Colonel Grigio – both of whom have their characters amended from how they are written in the book, along Analeigh Tipton in the role of Julie’s best friend, Nora, and Dave (brother to James) Franco in the role of Perry, Julie’s boyfriend at the start of the film and the catalyst, alongside R’s individualistic mindset, for his journey through the film.
The final set of “characters” that I’d like to talk about are the Bonies. They were already scary enough in the book as they written as the zombie ruling class, for want of a better phrase. In the film, the CGI sells this especially in the scene when M starts his evolutionary journey. However, due to the fact that you can now see that the Bonies have rid themselves of the last remaining aspect of their humanity, they are now shown as an unstoppable foe.
Given that there are differences to the literary and cinematic versions of “Warm Bodies”, as in the case of “The Silver Linings Playbook”/”Silver Linings Playbook”, I have to treat the film as an entity in its own right.
“Warm Bodies” is an entertaining film which is sold very much “as it says on the tin” as a zom-rom-com couched in the YA romance genre. It is funny and engaging whilst including great action beats and great performances based on well written dialogue, both by original author, Isaac Marion, and by Jonathan Levine… plus it has a killer contemporary soundtrack – the pity being that no soundtrack has been released for this film.