In the 1950s, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim created a modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It was set in New York, with natives and Puerto Ricans as rivals. In the 21st century, Isaac Marion has adapted it again, but in a post-apocalyptic world. And the rivalry is between the dead and the living.
With this crazy premise starts Warm Bodies, a mix of black comedy and teenage romance film. With promising new actors (Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Analeigh Tipton) and established thespians (John Malkovich), this film stands out for being something that nobody has seen before. Usually, in a movie, if there are zombies, the genre is horror. If there’s a teenage love story, the boy is dazzling and, well, alive. Warm Bodies plays with that, and exploits it.
R is a boy who wanders around an airport all day long, and lives inside a plane. But he is not an ordinary zombie. He has thoughts, a “moral” and feelings. Actually, the whole film is told through his thoughts (he barely speaks out loud). During an assault to eat brains, he meet Julie, and he takes her with him to “keep her safe” (he only wants her to get to know him and like him). And that is all I will say about the plot.
I was truly impressed by Hoult’s performance. It cannot be easy to walk like that and put those faces the whole time, and he manages to do it in a way that is both hilarious and credible. Honestly, there are some scenes that I am sure were hard to film without cracking up, like the first time M (this film’s Mercutio) appears. Side-splitting “conversation” between Hoult and Rob Corddry as M.
The good thing about the film is that parodies teenage romantic comedies, setting all the elements you would find in one of those films in this surrealistic world that we have in Warm Bodies. In would go further and say that it specifically parodies that kind of film from the 1980s, because the soundtrack is basically made out of songs from that decade
The screenplay is extremely funny. I would say that the best is Hoult’s face performance (which is basically all he can do being a zombie) and all the lines R delivers when he is thinking, such as “Man, we’re slow” or “They’ll eat anything with a heartbeat. I mean, I will too, but at least I’m conflicted about it”. There are dozens like those, but you have to watch the film and see them in their context. You’ll have more than a few laughs.
It is an unconventional film, an unconventional story. Just what we need right now, instead of so many sequels, prequels and remakes.
One of the things I had the most fun with were the moments when R just stared at Julie because he couldn’t help it, and then he noticed and thought something like “Stop it, idiot” (they were funnier sentences than that, trust me).
Just to be clear, I love sequels and prequels (NOT remakes), as long as they are as good as the other films in their sagas.
The balcony scene between R and Julie is the most obvious reference to Shakespeare’s play.
I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to spoil the film, but I found it to be a heart-warming allegory of love and overcoming differences. You’ll know it when you see it.