Contains mild spoilers.
5 stars, "Brilliant", "Hilarious", "Charming", a pretty delightful, tongue-in-cheek romantic comedy; stop me here but it seems to have all the right ingredients for a shit sandwich. Now having watched it, I still kind of want to hate it; it's light and bubbly, a bit ridiculous and Twilight for the zombie generation (I assume, not having watched it, honest, ahem) but there's a big problem. It's just so darn extremely likeable.
Loosely based on Romeo and Juliet; which, despite the two stars of the film being called Julie (Teresa Palmer) and zombie 'R' (Nicholas Hoult) I only picked up on about three quarters of the way through the film during a reproduction of the iconic balcony scene, Warm Bodies is a love story, but a love story on steroids.
It's been 6 years since the zombie apocalypse. Society has collapsed and the world is over-run but mankind has managed to survive. Walled off from the infected, an enclave run by Colonel Grigio (John Malkovich), who is also Julie's father, survives by maintaining a strict isolationist policy with regular authorised excursions out to gather supplies.
Outside, across the city in the abandoned airport 'R' goes about his daily life as a zombie, albeit a slightly different zombie than we're accustomed to. You see, 'R' has a self-aware inner narrator. Now obviously this requires some cinematic flight of fancy as if he really was this self aware, he'd not quite be the mindless shuffling flesh eating zombie he provides commentary on.
My take is zombie-ism in Warm Bodies is more a condition. They're still very much the same person they were before, with the same brains, personalities and dare I say soul, but they're devoid of all empathy, sympathy and life. It's almost a sleep like state where only a small part of the self is allowed to gently bob to the surface in a mindless sea of grey. They're aware they're still in there, deep down, suppressed and only visible for mere fleeting moments, and it's this awareness that drives them to seek out the one thing that can momentarily pull them out of the malaise: human flesh and brains. You see when they eat the brains of the living them momentarily gain the victims memories in an explosion of colour and life, and it's this insatiable desire to be woken from the nightmare that drives their hunger. Yet there are those that stop clinging on to life, who give in to the sleep and they're called 'bonies'. Ripping off their remaining skin and abandoning the last vestments of their humanity they succumb to the monster becoming the true undead villains of the film now unrecognisable from the people they once were and soulless. In some respects it only in this state that people are truly lost forever and dead; the real zombies?
It's during one of these awakenings that 'R' consuming the brains of Julie's boyfriend has an epiphany; as he relives the love Perry had for Julie and gazes across the room at her as her companions are slaughtered he simply put falls in love. This love brings with it new self awareness and so fuelled with love-ade 'R' takes it upon himself to protect Julie at all costs. He camouflages her in zombie-juice (like in The Walking Dead) and takes her to his secret man-den where he starts to demonstrate increasing autonomy, self and affection for her.
I've managed to get this far without talking about love but I'm going to have to address it at some point. Warm Bodies really does have the love conquers all idea permeate though out. For all the this is film is about zombies, surviving and salvation it's still very much a love story. Like Romeo and Juliet their love is boundless, eternal and can't be squashed; and going into this I doubted it could really be pulled off with any kind of credibility but it is. Their relationship is subtle, sweet and believable.
It's also unapologetically optimistic like an episode of Star Trek where you know how ever bad things appear to be getting, everything will ultimately end out great. There will the odd ensign expendable along the way, there will be trials and tribulations but it'll never get overly bloody or scary and the positive message that humanity is too strong to fail and will always prevail is central.
It's also important to remember that it is still a comedy. There are a lot of throw away lines from 'R' and Julie that kind of break the spell a little but taken with a grain of salt are funny and make the film the success it is. Director Jonathon Levine said he hoped zombie enthusiasts would be open to a new twist on the genre and I unequivocally say that I am. I came in to this quite sceptical but came away genuinely gushing. A heart warming light fresh zombie rom-com that does pretty much everything right, 8/10.