Warm Bodies is a loose retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet but with a twist. Romeo or R (Nicholas Hoult) is a zombie, living in a post apocalyptic world. He spends his days shuffling around a long abandoned airport, looking for food and grunting. One day while out searching for brains he comes across a group of young survivors and despite his condition, falls in love with one of them, a girl called Julie (Teresa Palmer). Going against his nature R saves Julie and takes her to a safe place. Something about his love for Julie triggers a reaction inside R’s heart and he slowly becomes more human but with armed militia out to kill zombies, will anyone believe him?
Warm Bodies begins with a fantastic idea. The film is mostly told from a zombie’s perspective which I found really interesting. He has an internal monologue which is deep, thoughtful and funny but outwardly is only able to produce a few groans. Unfortunately the interest soon wears off in favour of the romantic elements. While this is fine the film plays fast and loose with the zombie concept and purists will struggle to engage with a fast moving, talking, sentient zombie.
There are some great ideas in Warm Bodies, chiefly the zombie point of view stuff but it gets bogged down in romance and a poorly envisioned post apocalyptic world. The remaining humans live in the centre of an unspecified US city, behind a giant wall yet on the outside the world is covered in graffiti. I couldn’t help but wonder who put it there. Were people running from brain eating zombies while tagging the walls or did they use special graffiti parties to brave the other side of the wall and quickly scrawl something. It felt like a cheap way of showing chaos and destruction but in reality it makes no sense. I also had problems with the depiction of zombies early on. R was far too human from the beginning and indeed the zombies in Warm Bodies are the least zombie like of any film I’ve seen. Because the zombies have to be the good guys, the film creates creatures called Bonies to substitute for the traditional zombie vs. human battle. The bonies CGI looks really bad and they weren’t scary.
The romantic elements and most of the plot actually are lifted from Romeo & Juliet. This is quite subtle early on but as the film progresses it becomes so obvious it’s painful. Much like the Montagues and Capulets the two central ‘families’ zombies and humans are mortal enemies and the idea of interrelationship is considered barbaric by at least one side. There is a whirlwind romance and even a scene at a balcony. The film goes to great lengths to make it known that R can’t remember his name and Julie tries to guess to help him out. She mentions most well known names which begin with R but not Romeo. She of course is called Julie, very close to Juliet. The idea to recreate the famous play in this manner is very clever and it’s generally well done but it is often too obvious. Another problem is that it is very difficult to put Twilight out of your mind as the plot shares many similarities with that tripe. This I'm sure will work well with the target audience though.
The film is occasionally funny and the humour is often dead pan. The teenagers in the audience were laughing much more than myself which shows the film is working with its target audience. It never matches the highs of Zombieland or Shaun of the Dead though. Nicholas Hoult is quite good but I had problems with his characterisation. As an actor though he is fine. Co-star Teresa Palmer is also fine but never stands out and isn’t really memorable. John Malkovich ham’s it up as Julie’s father and Rob Corddry is good. The acting overall, much like the film is fine. It’s not special and not bad but just there. Warm Bodies is full of untapped potential and introduces some interesting ideas but a predictable script and annoying characterisation prevent it from being anything more than average.