Warm Bodies (2013)

Warm Bodies (2013)
Really? An obsolete Polaroid camera still full of unused film survived the apocalypse?
Photo via FilmoFilia.

As a loose retelling of Romeo and Juliet, Warm Bodies isn't a particularly profound or tragic story. In fact, this mashup of rom-com and zombie apocalypse movie genres definitely leans towards the cutesy side. Like many an awkward boy who falls for the pretty girl, the hero becomes a little tongue-tied around her. Off course, it doesn't exactly help that he's a mute zombie and she's one of the last living humans on Earth. Given that the male lead is a twenty-something slacker worried about being stuck in a rut, this movie could have been a lot more pandering. But his undead state provides a fresh twist to the tiresome ennui. The movie sometimes overplays the zombies as a metaphor for today's brain-dead, smartphone-addicted youth. But the wry, self-depreciating inner monologue keeps things lightheartedly funny. "R", as he comes to be know to the living, is intelligent and fully cognizant about his condition as a walking corpse. But he's trapped inside his own head. He wishes he could apologize whenever he accidentally bumps into another zombie. He'd really like to have a meaningful conversation with someone. Then one day he has his meet-cute with Julie when his zombie horde attacks her scouting party while they're foraging for medical supplies. He kills her boyfriend and eats his brains, which allows R to absorb the deceased person's memories. This kickstarts something in him. He switches from wanting to eat Julie to wanting to protect her from his undead companions. So begins an unlikely romance between an independent-minded woman who's frustrated with her dictatorial father's hardline views, and her neurotic but stiff kidnapper/stalker/boyfriend. Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer make this silly premise work by being very likable without being too cloying, and there is genuine onscreen chemistry between them. The resulting affair becomes sweetly nostalgic (even exhibiting a few luddite inclinations) as the two start to wonder about what life was like before the zombie plague.

There seems to be a penchant to compare Warm Bodies to the Twilight series. I can't speak for Isaac Marion's novel.  As for the film itself - uh, no. That has more to do with slick marketing than with the narrative's actual substance. Aside from the vastly different mood that permeates the entire story, the plot hews closely to the more old-fashioned notion of the monster trying to reclaim its lost humanity. At no point does anyone seriously considering turning the mere mortal into a supernatural denizen. And without giving away too much of the ending, love does conquer all, even the apocalypse.