I’m not a massive fan of zombies, I tried watching The Walking Dead and only managed a few episodes because my anxiety levels rocketed due to the constant fear it put me in.
And Warm Bodies probably seems like the least likely movie I would ever choose to go see, but underneath this zom-rom-com, is a tale of love. A tale of the undead curing themselves as love becomes the infection rather than a zombie virus.
R, played by Nicholas Hoult (About a Boy, X-Men: First Class), is a strangely likeable character. Already different from the zombies who inhabit a now defunct airport, his narrative voice, providing most of the comedy, tells us he doesn’t really enjoy what he has become and he yearns to be human again. He only eats human brains because he wants to survive, and mainly because he wants to dream again.
This is how we meet Julie, played by Teresa Palmer (I Am Number Four), she is out on a mission with her boyfriend Perry (Dave Franco) and friend Nora (Analeigh Tipton) amongst a couple of other dispensables, to recover medicine for the city behind the wall where the uninfected humans now live under the somewhat control of her father General Grigio (John Malkovich).
It is an unsuccessful mission, as R and and a group of other undeads, including M (Rob Corrdry) go on a food hunt and come across the group. The dispensables die first, and Perry’s brain is devoured by R, who although not proud of what he does it is out of necessity. But then something strange happens as he ingests the brains, he feels an overwhelming need to protect Julie who is scared out of her wits and unwillingly goes along with R’s plan for her to pretend to be a zombie.
Nora also escapes unharmed but Julie has effectively been kidnapped, here follows a few days where R tries to keep Julie “safe” in an plane crowded with nik naks that R has hoarded throughout his time as a zombie. It’s heartwarming because he wants to impress Julie, and he kind of does minus a couple of escape attempts he continues to eat a stash of Perry’s brain to connect with Julie and gradually get to know her as she continually questions “what are you?”
Julie fights with herself about staying but ultimately escapes, but has a little extra help in the end from R and M. She eventually abandons him though after finding out it was R who ate her boyfriends brains. He unknowingly falls asleep (something which zombies can’t do as we are often reminded), and dreams and as we see he is slowly regaining human actions she leaves him alone and heartbroken.
As Julie returns home to behind the wall, R is devastated he genuinely has love for her which has infected his fellow zombies who come to help him save Julie who is at risk from the very scary ‘Boneys’, these creatures are originally undeads who have withered away, strangely powerful and will eat anything with a heartbeat. They want to take down R and Julie because they have begun something that could cure all the other undeads.
It’s a risky move but R, with the memories of Perry, finds a way into the wall to inform Julie of the impending danger. This is honestly my favourite part, and is the moment you connect the whole characters to the star-crossed lovers of Shakespeare’s famosu tragedy, the moment you realise that R could stand for the ill-fated hero who only has love for one woman. The balcony scene is beyond ludicrous though, to the point where you are like WE GET IT, but still funny to watch especially when Nora’s greeting of “sup?” brings the laughs.
The action quickly builds as the Boneys track the scent of M and his now fellow infected zombies, to infiltrate the safe zone and basically kill. We see Julie trying to convince her father that R is being “different” from the others, that’s after a hilarious ‘makeover’ scene where Nora and Julie apply a ton of make-up and make R look like a drag queen, but the General is not convinced, they make a hasty escape but are caught by Boneys.
But there is help at hand from the zombies who fight the Boneys, they know they can be cured and start to join forces with the unwilling humans. At the same time we see R and Julie come to the end of their escape, they have to make the decision die or die, so they jump and R sacrifices his life for Julie. It is a moment where you can guess what will happen but all the same it’s a huge shock when after he sputters a breath, a gunshot hits R who begins to bleed and in that moment everyone realises that he is human again.
It is a happy ending all round, as the humans begin to understand the cure for the zombies is the love, care and understanding of a human that makes them turn back. Strange but it works, and as we see M slowly regain his human composure we learn his name, and the hope strikes that we will find out what R’s real name is and as
my whispers in the cinema theatre wish for it to be Romeo, Julie asks him and he wants to keep R. Simply because that is his new life now, with his own hero Julie.
Warm Bodies is first and foremost a love story, adapted from the book of the same name, it is has unexpected laughs and heartfelt emotions. There are great performances from all the leads, I mean for Nicholas Hoult to be a zombie with minimum lines and still make you like him is a feat in itself, Teresa Palmer and Analeigh Tipton make a great duo and Rob Corddry adds laughs without having to barely do anything.
I say don’t judge a book by its zombie cover, you may be surprised by how this movie turns pre-conceptions of zombie-horror on its head by adding some chick-flick scenarios and a loving bromance. A funny and definite must-see.