Essentially, there are no rules, making the film not only infuriatingly contradictory, but also more soporific than a 2 a.m. infomercial.
After some type of viral outbreak in the near future, zombies have become mankind’s worst enemy, albeit a slow moving, poorly organized enemy. The zombies’ days (and nights) consist mainly of shuffling from place to place, bumping into one another, and occasionally seeking out the deliciousness of human flesh. These meals are becoming more and more infrequent, though, with the number of humans dwindling and the zombie population booming.
This is the world of Warm Bodies, the latest unnecessary addition to the zombie genre. Based on this film, it would be a safe assumption to believe that director Jonathan Levine, who wrote the script based on the novel by Isaac Marion, has never seen another zombie movie in his entire life. The genre is over 40 years old, stretching from George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968), and it seems likely that, at the very least, Levine would have accidentally watched one at some point—but that doesn’t appear to be the case.
Depending on the situation (i.e., requirement of the plot), Levine’s zombies may be capable of superhuman strength and agility one moment, and then unable to overpower a 120-pound teenager the next. The corpses (as they are called) can smell human flesh from 50 yards away, but their olfactory system gets confused when a human has just the smallest smudge of zombie juice wiped on his or her forehead. Essentially, there are no rules, making the film not only infuriatingly contradictory, but also more soporific than a 2 a.m. infomercial.
Our “hero” is R (Nicholas Hoult), a different kind of zombie. Sure, he eats people, but he feels conflicted about it. He doesn’t remember his name (only the first letter) or what he did before he became a zombie (probably unemployed), but he certainly knows how to work a record player and that “bonies” are the final stage of zombiehood to which he doesn’t want to aspire. In Levine’s world, memory and comprehension are, at best, selective.
When he meets (read: kidnaps) Julie (Teresa Palmer) after eating her boyfriend’s brains, R’s life begins to change. He takes her back to his makeshift bachelor pad: an abandoned plane sitting on the runway of the zombie-infested airport. She’s terrified of him at first, but he wins her over by staring awkwardly at her only part of the time and protecting her from the other zombies. If fighting off other zombies wasn’t bad enough, R also has to worry about Julie’s zombie-hating father (John Malkovich) who is the militant leader of a small encampment of humans.
It’s possible that Marion’s novel is entertaining and witty, evidenced by the occasional humorous line of dialogue. Any artistic vision has been beaten out of his work, though, by Levine, who can’t decide if he’s trying to make Shaun of the Dead or an episode of The Walking Dead. He attempts to inject social commentary into the storyline, but fails to develop it in any discernible way. He hints at a science fiction-esque cause of the outbreak, but the “cure,” as we discover, is straight out of a Nicholas Sparks novel. The film’s tone, like that of his previous feature 50/50, never fully coalesces, leaving the audience to suffer.
While Hoult is quite delightful as R and gives a terrific physical performance, it’s not enough to save what is, ultimately, a pointless endeavor that goes nowhere and adds nothing to a great history of genre filmmaking. | Matthew Newlin