A New Age for Zombie Movies?
Published: Monday, February 4, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 4, 2013 14:02
Expressionless. Ravenous. Dead. Those are just a few of many adjectives our society associates with zombies, those mumbling corpse-like entities that retain no humanity and care only for their next fleshy meal. Zombie movies generally consist of nothing more than unnecessary large amounts of gore and terrible acting. However, our assumption of zombie behavior and zombie movies could not be more wrong when we experience the comedic version in Jonathan Levine’s Warm Bodies, a boy-meets-girl story (or in this case, zombie meets girl) whose laughter-evoking scenes, love and picturesque story will have you thinking that there may be hope for future (and good zombie movies.)
The glory days of zombie movies seemingly have come to an end as untalented producers, avid for some flesh-eating, profitable scenes, finish cashing in their checks with lackluster, fragmented films. However, Jonathan Levine, who directedthe Golden Globe-nominated film50/50, added his creative mark to the zombie film canon in the awkwardly hilarious film, Warm Bodies. With a neoclassical love tale that makes a nod to Shakespeare, an impressive young cast and a killer soundtrack, Warm Bodies delivers a perfect date-movie with its witty, down-to-earth narration and sarcastic take on zombie cliches.
Warm Bodiesis different from most zombie films, with less gore with more laughs. Levine’s film begins after a disastrous zombie apocalypse ravages Earth, and follows the narration of R (Nicholas Hoult), a lonely zombie hungry not for human flesh, but for love. Although set in the mindset of a young zombie who, unlike his fellow undead, is capable of rational thought, there is a realistic spin on the development of the protagonist as he simply desires to connect better with humans and enjoy their company. R is a far cry from the generic flesh-eating corpse that the world associates with zombies.
With excellent comedic writing, the movie attacks the traditional cliches of zombie films through R’s sarcastic, self-deprecating humor poking fun at his own kind, whether it be their incoherent groaning or molasses-like speed and agility. But R finds the answer to his loneliness when he unexpectedly falls head over heels for Julie (Teresa Palmer), the human daughter of ruthless zombie-hunter General Grigio (John Malkovich). It is love at first sight for R, but he finds that his dreams come at a high cost.
Levine’s storyline is not as simple as love at first sight. Besides the obvious intricacies between zombies and humans, there is a complex cohort of storylines that complicate their love. The universe involves more than the tragic loss of humanity and the “lost in translation” scenarios R and Julie find themselves in. Various other complications, such as Julie’s feelings of living under her father’s shadow and her inability to forget her love for her ex-boyfriend (Dave Franco), that thwart Julie from connecting with R. Levin has done something few other zombie filmmakers have dared to: he gives character and human emotion to the undead.
R cares for Julie and rescues her multiple times from both corpses and Boneys, the undead race with absolutely no humanity left. Julie begins to realize that zombies are not solely concerned with killing and are fighting against their nature to become human again, a message that resounds far after the film has finished. R and Julie’s relationship touches on some universal undertones that are applicable to the real world in terms of understanding racial and cultural barriers and general human connection. Levine’s comic relief helps translate these themes to the audience.
Warm Bodieshumorously captures the classic themes of love, transformation and re-evaluation of misjudgment — with a bit of blood and gore thrown in the mix. After all, what are zombie movies if they don’t have a little of the good old flesh and blood? However, the unique telling of zombie love with fine-tuned thematic styles and interesting plot points proves that zombie movies can be so much more. R and Julie overcome judgmental barriers, especially when they’re together in an abandoned airplane away from the ongoing zombie-human conflict, dancing to Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” and playing the frustrating game of hot hands.
Stellar performances by the cast complement Levine’s script. Hoult delivers an honest performance. In addition, the well-written story could not have been achieved without the electric chemistry between Hoult and Palmer. And although his part is small, Franco gives a remarkable performance as an angry, abandoned son whose “me-against-the-world” attitude dismantles his relationship with Julie.
The rendering of Levine’s good-humored zombie love story is a piece that forces you to think and has the ability to start a new trend of well-made, zombie movies. Warm Bodies takes you on an insightful and transformational journey with unprecedented screenwriting that may revive the struggling zombie genre.