Saturday, March 23, 2013

Warm Bodies

New Friends

With werewolves and vampires hogging the cinema screens in the last few years under romantic genres, perhaps it is timely now to explore if zombies can fit into the same picture as well, and being a more interesting prospect at that since there's no icky bestiality involved, nor necessary have to be uber-sexy and charming like a vampire should be. Zombies are basically rotten walking corpses of the undead, lumbering – or in recent times, running - around seeking out humans for food, with a preference to feast on human brains as a delicacy. They're easy to put away with conventional rounds into the head, unlike werewolves and vampires that require specialized skills and weapons, so they go around in hordes where strength in numbers tend to overwhelm.

Then came writer Isaac Mario and his idea for his novel, to get into the shoes of the other side, and walk around in them for a little. As far as I recall, not since Fido had we a cinematic zombie who tried his darnedest best to assimilate back into the life of a human, with thoughts still lingering about filling an intense void in the unbeating heart of his. Zombies can hardly talk, save for the occasional grunts, and what director Jonathan Levine managed to do, is to have the film's narration peek into the thinking head of R (Nicholas Hoult), a zombie who is experiencing existentialism issues, and providing us a quick update into the rules of the game in which Warm Bodies operate under.

And no, there's no sparkling nonsense under sunlight. What was proposed were highly feasible and worthy addition to the zombie canon, where the first person perspective here provides us with that up close and personal look at the dilemma of being an undead, where the feasting of humans, and their brains specifically, allows for the zombies to momentarily adopt the memories of those they are consuming, and allowing them that slightest chance to feel alive again. If that's the case, then I don't see why they behave the way they do, with that dietary preference. And for those who are zombies for long, they eventually lose all sense of humanity and become skeletons, whose sole objective is to feast. And there were a number of essential presentations that just serve to enhance those parameters the narrative has to operate within.

The story truly begins when R, on a feasting hunt, meets up with a surviving bunch of humans outside of their walled city to look for medicine, and smitten by Julie (Teresa Palmer), takes her under his wing to keep her safe, as well as the ulterior motive of romancing the girl. Conveniently living aboard a jetliner at the airport, which provides that airtight condition to keep her human scent from other zombies, close proximity with only each other meant plenty of opportunities to get to know the other party, and who would have known, fall in love. It's a modern day Romeo & Juliet story set against a zombie apocalypse backdrop, with that instantly recognizable token balcony scene to boot, that would set the hearts of romantic die-hards aflutter, since adversary comes in the form of Julie's dad Colonel Grigio (John Malkovich).

In this love conquering all tale, Levine perhaps wanted to tell the tale of how love provides the key to what would be a seemingly hopeless situation, especially amongst those "Zombiefied" amongst us who live life as soulless routines. There never was any attempts so far to suggest how zombies could revert to human form, and this story had the audacity to do just that, making that bold statement to set it apart from the competition. Between the two leads of Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer, clearly Hoult is now seeing his star shining brighter, with lead roles here and in other blockbusters like Jack the Giant Slayer, cementing his status to heartthrob levels with his boyish charm on the big screen. With the material, he did his best rendition of the lumbering, awkward zombie R who finds his heart getting warmer and his mannerisms slowly giving way to become more human like. Palmer didn't have much to do as the damsel usually in distress, though having moments to show she's no pushover as well. But ultimately it's a role that could have been played by any other starlet, save for her solid chemistry opposite Hoult.

As far as romantic stories go that has classical monsters as one of the other significant half, Warm Bodies proves to be a sheer winner for its romance and comedy, together with its eclectic selection of pop tunes that make up its soundtrack. As a fan of Rob Corddry, I have to make note of his supporting role here that came as a surprise to have been a little bit more than expected, but I'm not complaining. Warm Bodies has enough heart that makes this a zombie love story like none other. Fans of the romance genre should lap this one up as well, as it comes with that stamp of recommended approval!

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