After R (a highly unusual zombie) saves Julie from an attack, the two form a relationship that sets in motion a sequence of events that might transform the entire lifeless world.
Year 1, Day 213
BEFORE: For the second time this month (which I view as an accomplishment) I’m deviating with my pre-planned schedule to attend an advanced screening of Warm Bodies. After securing passes to multiple screenings for this film, I’m finally going to see it. I’d also like to be upfront about my feelings going into this film: I do not have any high hopes whatsoever. I have been bashing this film just on the poster (and to a smaller extent the trailer) alone and cannot envision a way in which I’ll find this entertaining. On the flip side, setting the bar so low also sets up the possibility of tremendous success if Warm Bodies is even mildly entertaining. Coming from the reverse perspective, my friends have heard many great things and are very excited going into the film.
AFTER: “Bitches man.” This is what M (Rod Corddry - and no, not that M) says to R (Nicholas Hoult) in reference to Julie (Teresa Palmer). It’s just a taste of what the film is like. It’s not like Night of the Living Dead: it’s not serious but it’s not meant to be. I think one of the biggest reasons I was so pessimistic about the film going into it was the tone just didn’t come across in the trailer. For comparisons sake, it’s like a subdued A Knight’s Tale - absurd with a touch of humanity. And this made for a film that was much better than I expected (although the bar wasn’t set very high).
I’m going to switch things up a bit and talk about what I didn’t like first. A lot of this film was painfully slow. Especially at the beginning when you don’t really know these characters yet. All you’re seeing is a bunch of zombies sauntering along doing their thing while R is narrating. It’s a great idea for introducing these characters and it is quite effective at showing their monotonous lifestyle, but this just continues on until R meets Julie. Then things improve a bit (more on that in the next section) but then it just reverts back to the slow and tedious meandering around ghost town. Not much is happening action-wise and the character development that would take it’s place in terms of entertainment is similarly moving at a snail’s pace. It wasn’t all bad and in fact some of this monotony with accompanying narration is what makes the style of the film, but it wasn’t all great which made the poorer parts stick out.
I could continue on with a plethora of plot questions (why were some zombies able to run, what’s the deal with the skeleton zombies, and why are zombies changing now?) but I’m not. Why? Because while these problems didn’t help the film, I was also able to suspend my disbelief/forget them. And that was the result of the oft mentioned style. From what I’ve said already it may sound like I didn’t like it but that’s only a half truth. I very much enjoyed this film, when it was allowed to be fully realized. This happened twice as far as I can recall: once right after R takes Julie back to his quarters and again at the end when more of the zombies begin to change. It was these moments in the film that I really enjoyed and ever since leaving the theater I’ve been trying to come up with a word to describe why. The best one I came up with was camaraderie. In these two portions of the film I just felt there were no restrictions. The characters were free to express themselves by actually doing things and as a result, everything seemed more natural and realistic. It didn’t feel forced or scripted, it felt real (at least as real as a zombie apocalypse can be - which for some people is just around the corner). And as much as I liked R and Julie, by far my favorite character was Julie’s father Gen. Grigio (John Malkovich).
As much as I would have love to totally knock this film (I really don’t know why I had such a visceral hatred going into it), I must say it was quite enjoyable. Warm Bodies is still slightly bizarre and has a handful of problems, but for the most part the bizarreness and absurdity works in the films favor. By no means is it my favorite film, but I don’t think you’ll be disappointed if you see it.
Warm Bodies opens in theaters this Friday, February 1, 2013.
RATING: 3 out of 5