When I first saw the preview for Warm Bodies, a genre-bending flick about a self-aware zombie, I was skeptical. But I was also skeptical about Zombieland (2009), a similar film that not only far exceeded my expectations but was a huge hit overall. Unfortunately, this most recent zombie-comedy hybrid is a dead movie walking.
Bodies follows R (Nicholas Hoult), a highly unique zombie — or corpse, as they’re called in the film — who eloquently and comically narrates his emotionless, shuffling existence. R spends his days wandering the airport, groaning back and forth with his “best friend” (Rob Corddry), and retiring to his own private, abandoned airplane. R is no regular corpse; he can think and do more than just grunt, drag his feet and eat people. For example, R collects records. That may sound like an odd thing to marvel at, but when you’re used to the zombies from 28 Days Later or The Walking Dead, it’s surreal to see one of the undead pick out some vinyl and drop the needle.
One day, when R and a few of his peers are out searching for food, they encounter a group of young survivors surveying a pharmacy for medicine. It’s here that things start to go downhill for Warm Bodies. During the encounter, R’s system is shocked when he sees the gun-wielding Julie (Teresa Palmer). He later saves and kidnaps her, but not before eating her boyfriend’s brain — which allows the corpse to gain the memories of their meal. This is, in part, how R gets to know Julie.
When this gem of a plot device surfaced I couldn’t have rolled my eyes any harder … At least, not until the next part, where R somehow saves Julie by smearing a small amount of blood on her cheek and leading her (along with his corpse gang!) back through the ridiculously corpse-crowded airport to his airplane. Are you kidding me?
I don’t want to give away too much, but romance ensues and it has major repercussions for the humans and corpses alike.
The premise alone, even within the sort of universe in which a zombie apocalypse can occur, is ridiculous. I know movies aren’t about plausibility, but seriously, in what world is love a cure for anything other than loneliness, let alone death? Of course, I knew going in that this was where the plot was headed, but I hoped that the writing would otherwise make up for it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t.
The only way such a premise could have even remotely made sense would have been if the corpses were never truly dead. It’s not unusual in stories like these for the zombies to be declared “sick,” leaving open the possibility of a “cure.” What if the writers had gone with that? What if a thirst for human flesh, extremely low heart rate, and decreased motor skills were simply symptoms of a disease that could be reversed? Characterize it as an extreme form of depression combined with dementia and then (maybe) I could buy love as a cure.
I could have gotten past the absurd premise if the writers had developed a more realistic world with fewer plot holes. Instead, the lapses are everywhere. For example, eight years are supposed to have passed since the beginning of the zombie apocalypse, but there are still places that haven’t been raided for food and supplies? Not to mention that there’s still functioning cars that have gas. Maybe I would have been able to ignore these inconsistencies if I hadn’t just read the first hundred issues of The Walking Dead comics, but it was too late for me.
I know Warm Bodies was never intended to be a hard genre flick, but with some tighter writing it could have been a really interesting take on the zombie subgenre. As is, Warm Bodies has some funny parts, but they’re overwhelmed by the cheesy, underdeveloped script.