Editor’s Note: Two NeXt correspondents – one who read “Warm Bodies” by Isaac Marion before seeing the film version of the novel and one who had no prior knowledge of the film – give their reviews of the post-apocalyptic zombie romance that hit theaters over the weekend.
Right on target
By Danielle Grimm / NeXt Correspondent
Let us raise a glass to Isaac Marion, whose multigenre novel “Warm Bodies” summoned fans from across the nation into theaters last weekend despite the overwhelming Super Bowl XLVII coverage. The novel’s first-ever cinematic adaptation claimed the top spot in the weekend box office, grossing $20 million in ticket sales and surpassing the second seed, “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters,” by $10.8 million.
Those who have read the book, such as myself, patiently endured the year and a half it took for filming in Montreal, eagerly anticipating the final product. The level of expectation was high given the nature of the novel and the studios that fostered production; the novel is a quirky blend of post-apocalyptic, humorous, existentialist and romantic genres, and Summit Entertainment’s involvement with the outrageously successful “Twilight” franchise suggests that the studio was surefooted in adapting another teen paranormal romance. However, as taglines emerged – “There’s nothing hotter than a girl with brains,” “Dead sexy,” “Bros before brains” – it appeared as though Summit took a more teenybopper approach to the story. I am pleased to report, though, that “Warm Bodies” surpassed its juvenile taglines.
The backbone of every A-plus movie is an A-plus cast, a facet of “Warm Bodies” that radiated with accuracy. Nicholas Hoult (“Clash of the Titans,” “X-Men: First Class”) brought life to our title zombie, R. His subtle vulnerability juxtaposed his static yet appropriate portrayal of a zombie, which made for a near-perfect depiction of the philosophically conflicted corpse readers know and treasure. Teresa Palmer (“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” “I am Number Four”) supported Hoult well as the turbulent human, Julie, but at times lacked the genuine appreciation for life that Julie had in the novel. The remaining members of the supporting cast – Rob Corddry as M, Dave Franco as Perry, Analeigh Tipton as Nora and John Malkovich as General Grigio – magnificently fit the bill. The film lacked Colonel Rosso, a voice of reason against General Grigio’s obstinate survivalist nature, but the plot progressed well without him.
Although the writers clearly had no trouble unearthing the more subtle humor in the book, a few subplots with particular comedic value were overlooked. R unintentionally marries another corpse before meeting his human counterpart Julie and, seeing as the undead cannot reproduce, was assigned two children. Considering communication between the zombies is remedial and generally monosyllabic, R didn’t understand he was getting married until after the fact. The writers could have had a lot of fun with that subplot. Still, the inability to have children did not deter the corpses in the novel from engaging in cumbersome, awkward sexual activity, another prime outlet for humor that was overlooked. The zombie sex serves as a mechanism for further character development for R’s best friend M, who is not quite the quick-witted ladies man we see in the novel.
Some extraneous subplots failed to make the cut as well. The Boneys – ancient skeletal remains of what were once corpses – led a religious following in the novel, establishing them as tradition-oriented and unwavering. These traits coupled with the desire to keep the world as it is eventually motivate the Boneys to go after R and Julie, providing the primary conflict in the novel. Although we still encounter the Boneys, the root of their distaste in R and Julie is slightly more ambiguous in the film. Additionally (and on an unrelated note), R’s infatuation for Frank Sinatra was replaced by a wider variety of music, a change that worked in favor of the script.
Much to the content of the readers, the dialogue in the film all but mirrored the dialogue from the book. The primary distinctions between film and book dialogue occurred in scenes exclusive to the film – scenes that efficiently furthered the plot and compounded onto an already engaging storyline. The changes between the movie and the book were few and far between, and those present made for what could possibly be the next cult classic.
◊◊◊½ out of 4
Danielle Grimm is a senior at Clarence High School.
A nice, light comedy
By Emily DeRoo / NeXt Correspondent
“What am I doing with my life? I’m so pale. I should get out more. I should eat better. My posture is terrible. I should stand up straighter. People would respect me more if I stood up straighter. What’s wrong with me? I just want to connect. Why can’t I connect with people? Oh, right, it’s because I’m dead.”
These are the first words we hear from the protagonist of “Warm Bodies,” a zombie who can’t remember his name and instead goes by R. R is different from the other zombies in that, although he still enjoys eating people, he tries to be self-improving. The audience is able to hear his thoughts through a voiceover, as normally all zombies do is grunt and groan. R’s thoughts help us to see that all he really wants is to be human. One of the ways he can feel a little bit more human is eating his prey’s brains. When zombies eat the brains of humans, they internalize all of their memories and emotions from their life.
The setting of the film is a post-zombie apocalypse world in which the only humans left have holed themselves up in a city surrounded by an immense concrete wall to protect themselves from the zombies. However, the humans still are in need of resources, such as medicine, from the other side of the wall. To obtain these resources, they send in teams. The team that the movie focuses on is Julie, the daughter of General Grigio, the leader of the city; Julie’s boyfriend, Perry; and Julie’s close friend, Nora. While on the expedition, the team meets R’s pack of zombies, hungry for their next meal. R spares Julie and is entranced by her beauty. To protect Julie and get to know her more, R takes her to his makeshift home in an airplane. The two then bond over music and experiencing life outside of the wall, and Julie grows to love the zombie that saves her life.
There are many allusions to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet throughout the film, most notably the character names (R and Julie), and a balcony scene in which R goes to Julie’s house despite the risk of being shot.
I thought the movie was a nice, light comedy that will thrill any zombie lover. I am a firm believer in reading the book before seeing the movie, but in this case I hadn’t, and now I want to read the book. The acting was excellent, especially the performance by Nicholas Hoult as R. I think that it is extremely hard to play an undead guy for most of the movie, and Hoult did a great job. The only thing I thought was lacking in the movie was the screenplay. The film had a lot of potential to be laugh-out-loud funny, but I thought it was more of a polite-chuckle funny. However, the film was still good, filled with zombies that find what they are missing in their undead lives is love.
◊◊◊ out of 4
Emily DeRoo is a senior at Williamsville North High School.