Adapted from Isaac Marion’s 2011 novel, Warm Bodies is a unique and light-hearted twist on the zombie genre, a genre that’s usually ravaged by bleakness. Writer and director Jonathan Levine (The Wackness and 50/50) manages to blend comedy, romance, and horror into an entertaining and tonally balanced film that twists zombie mythology.
Nicholas Hoult is R, the film’s narrator and member of the undead who shuffles around an airport hoping to find connection but finds no such luck because of the whole “being dead” thing. Although he can’t remember a single thing about his life before he was infected, including his full name name, R is at least vaguely aware of how things use to be and offers us an unexpected perspective through articulated narration. The closest thing to a friend he has in his undead existence is his friend and fellow zombie M (Rob Corddry).
Once they make their way to the city’s ruins in hopes to eat, R and a horde of hungry zombies attack a group of medicine-fetching survivors who have left their green zone. R is different than most other zombies, he doesn’t like to eat other people but he does so anyway because as he says, “hunger is a powerful thing.”
During the attack, he kills and eats the brains of a young man named Perry (Dave Franco) and instantly falls in love with the victim’s ex-girlfriend Julie (Teresa Palmer). R saves Julie’s life and keeps her safe in the airplane in which he inhabits. After a nerve-wracking start, they eventually form an unlikely bond after Julie realizes R’s non-threatening humanistic traits. R is determined to keep Julie as safe as possible. By doing so, he evolves and becomes more human with a beating heart. Even with R becoming more human, there are problems that stand in his and Julie’s way including “bonies”, which are vicious skeletal zombies that devour anyone with a beating heart, and Julie’s militaristic father (John Malkovich).
Warm Bodies shouldn’t have worked but it did. A zombie romance from the perspective of the zombie itself is undoubtedly an ambitious idea. To make the idea work, some liberties of zombie mythology had to be taken and twisted. Without having read Isaac Marion’s novel, the announcement of this project had me worried because I was expecting it to be a Twilight-inspired teen horror romance that offered little horror and all romance. Don’t worry when it comes to Warm Bodies, because the film offers good doses of zombie horror and romance that surprisingly work well together without falling into a pitfall of shirtless heroics.
Leave it to a talented filmmaker such as Jonathan Levine to bring a sense of style and heart to a film that easily could’ve fell apart if it was in the wrong hands. Levine is known for directing films that put its humanistic story and characters first. This is exactly what Levine does with Warm Bodies. Instead of relying on an obscene amount of zombie carnage and a slew of action sequences, Levine tries to keep much of the focus on his characters so that the audience can allow themselves to be invested in the unconventional romance that unfolds.
Although Jonathan Levine had a hand in the success of making this film work, a lot of credit goes to the impressive two young leads Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer. Nicholas Hoult is superb as R, who I believe is one of the best zombie characters since Bub in George Romero’s 1985 classic Day of the Dead. Australian actress Teresa Palmer portrays Julie in such a likeable way that you won’t be able to take your eyes off the screen whenever she’s present.
The chemistry between Hoult and Palmer was believable throughout the film’s duration. The relationship between R and Julie, which nods toward Romeo and Juliet and Beauty and the Beast, is undoubtedly heartwarming. The relationship onscreen wouldn’t have been as heartwarming if it wasn’t for their impeccable chemistry. Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer’s interaction onscreen chemistry is light and sweet, but most of the humor derives from the supporting cast, most notably Rob Corddry and Analeigh Tipton.
Picture (1080p High-Definition Transfer): Warm Bodies is presented in an AVC encoded 1080p high-definition transfer in 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The imagery is well saturated during the flashback sequences, but is more of a subdued throughout most of the film with a bluish grey color palette. Shot digitally, the resolution is enhanced but lacks in substantial detail during certain sequences.
Audio (DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio Track): This is a dialogue-centered film and thankfully, the dialogue is cleanly presented without a hitch. The dialogue track is perfectly matched with background levels such as the score and miscellaneous background noise. The sound levels are well balanced and consistent throughout the duration.
The special features offered on the Blu-ray of Warm Bodies are presented in high-definition:
- Audio Commentary with Writer and Director Jonathan Levine and Actors Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer.
- Boy Meets, Er, Doesn’t Eat Girl: Novel and Film Development
- R&J: Nick and Teresa
- A Little Less Dead: The Acting Ensemble
- Extreme Zombie Make Over! Make Up Effects
- A Wreck in Progress: Product Design and Montreal
- Bustin’ Caps: Weapons / Stunts
- Beware The Boneys: Visual Effects
- Whimsical Sweetness: Teresa Palmer’s Warm Bodies Home Movies
- Zombie Acting Tips with Rob Corddry
- Deleted Scenes w/ Optional Audio Commentary with Jonathan Levine
- Shrug and Groan Gag Reel
- Theatrical Trailer
- Digital Copy
- Ultraviolet Digital Copy
The special features offered on the disc certainly do not disappoint. There’s a total of three and a half hours of behind-the-scenes footage, commentaries, and in-depth interviews that fans of the film can indulge in. The “Boy Meets, Er, Doesn’t Eat Girl: Novel and Film Development” feature showcases interviews with producers, Jonathan Levine, and author Isaac Marion as they discuss the novel’s origins and the adaptation process. In the “R & J: Nick and Teresa” feature, Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer discuss their characters, what drew them to the project, and share their experience of making the film. “A Little Less Dead” contains interviews with the extended cast including Rob Corddry, John Malkovich, Dave Franco, and Analeigh Tipton. The “Extreme Zombie Make Over! Make Up Effects” feature shows the work that went into R’s transformation and other make up effects in the film.
The feature “Wreck In Progress” is a fascinating look at the film’s impressive production design. There are a total of nine deleted scenes offered on the disc. You have the option of listening to Jonathan Levine’s audio commentary track while watching all of the deleted scenes. He explains why each scene was deleted from the final cut of the film. If you’re a fan of Rob Corddry, you’ll especially enjoy the features “A Little Less Dead: The Acting Ensemble” and “Zombie Acting Tips with Rob Corddry”. He’s absolutely hilarious. Overall, the special features offered on the disc are insightful and most importantly, entertaining.
Warm Bodies is unlike any other zombie film you’ve seen before. It’s a film that manages to blend horror, comedy, and romance without a tonal misstep. It’s a film that has big ideas, including the gaining of memory through the consumption of brains and the concept of the “bonies”, and good doses of humor and romance. The film also has an underlying meaning on how to appreciate a heart that beats.
Click here to purchase Warm Bodies on Blu-ray/Ultraviolet Digital Copy
The Blu-ray was released on June 4th, 2013.