There is no question the zombie genre is more popular than ever. The problem with over-popularity is saturation. Pretty soon you have so many zombie movies and television shows that they all begin to blend into one another. The only solution is for someone to come up with a story that has never been done before. One thing that has not been explored is to tell a story from a zombie’s point-of-view. That is until now with the new movie “Warm Bodies”. Unfortunately this great idea, which looked good in movie trailers, is so poorly executed that it will make you feel like a zombie by the end (and not in a good way).
R (Nicholas Hoult) is no longer happy with his life as a zombie. He goes by R because he can no longer remember his name, but he’s pretty sure it started with an R. He mostly wonders around the airport imagining what other zombies used to be when they were alive. He occasionally joins a pack of other zombies to looks for living humans to eat. During one such attack he lays his eyes on Julie (Teresa Palmer) who literally gets his heart to start pumping again. Instead of wanting to eat her, he wants to protect her. It’s the ultimate forbidden love story since R’s friends want to eat Julie and Julie’s friends want to put a bullet in R’s brain.
So what went wrong with “Warm Bodies”? Could it be the director? It’s Jonathan Levine who directed “50/50” which turned out well which means he is capable of telling a story. Could it be the cast? Nicholas Hoult is a star on the rise whose credits include being Beast in “X-Men: First Class” and John Malkovich plays Julie’s father who is the leader of the surviving humans. There’s good talent amongst the cast. The script is based on a best-selling novel. The movie is rated PG-13. Was it not gory enough for a zombie movie? Were the makeup effects not effective?
The answer is all of the above! Nothing worked in this movie. Let’s start with Jonathan Levine. Not every director has a perfect track record and “Warm Bodies” can go down as Levine’s misstep. He never develops any kind of flow to the movie. R complains his frustration of no longer being able to connect to people while movie audiences will become frustrated of never being able to connect to any of the characters. There’s one shot in the movie of R and the other zombies walking in slow motion towards the camera to really cool music as they are about to embark on something important. It’s a moment where the audience is really supposed to get behind and root for the characters, but all Levine manages to deliver is a group of actors in not so good makeup walking slowly at the camera. There is not the usual gore you would see in a zombie movie because of the softer rating. The lack of seeing zombies peeling the flesh of humans with their teeth did not really hurt this movie, but it did not help either.
Some of the fault of being unable to connect with the characters will have to fall onto the actors too, as well as the bad screenplay (also written by Levine). John Malkovich talents are wasted as his character is barely one-dimensional. This looked to be an “I just showed up for a paycheck” kind of performance, but part of that has to be due to how his character was written. Teresa Palmer is a beautiful young actress, but you would think her character would radiate on screen so we can begin to understand what R sees in her, but she doesn’t do that. Her co-star, Analeigh Tipton shows more life on screen than Palmer ever does. While Nicholas Hoult is playing a zombie, and this may be ironic to state, his performance is really stiff.
There is one point early in the movie, which you can see by clicking HERE, where R thinks about a pre-zombie world where people could express themselves better and enjoy each other’s company and the shot is of people texting and talking on their cell phones, not looking at one another. A clear commentary of how we are all zombies already. After that there are no other moments of such subtext. It sums up “Warm Bodies” perfectly, a chance to do something fresh, but failing to capitalize on the opportunity. At least the soundtrack was good. It is rated PG-13 for violence and language.