Thursday, June 6, 2013

Movie Review: Warm Bodies

Zombies - they're everywhere lately. On June 28th, Esther Wheelmaker will drop by Pagan Spirits to talk about her steampunk zombie novel  Gravely Inanimated. In the meantime, I've gotten into the Walking Dead graphic novel series after I took my nieces to the comic book shop on Free Comic Book Day 2013 and picked up a TWD book there. I'm halfway through Book Two.

But, as I must sometimes remind my dad, please don't spoil the TV show for me. I have only seen up to the part where Lori finds out she's pregnant and she doesn't know whether the baby is Shane's or Rick's. 

I didn't read Isaac Marion's book Warm Bodies. I came to the movie fresh, not knowing anything about it other than what I saw in the trailer on the big screen. If I remember correctly, the first time I saw the trailer was at The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Pt. 2. Appropriately, the DVD I got from Netflix featured the trailers for BD Pt. 2, The Hunger Games and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I intend to read Wallflower before I see its movie, but I haven't wanted to pay the $12 for that skinny lil paperback yet.

The movie centers on a zombie who comes to be called R; all he can remember of his name is that he thinks it started with an R. Eight years after the earth succumbed to the zombie apocalypse for reasons R can't name, he lives a bleak, sleepless existence with the other zombies, hanging around an airport. He wishes for more, but his cognitive faculties are limited. He does know that zombies all eventually deteriorate into what they call the Bonies, which look less human and more wraith-like and apparently have even less reasoning power.

Meanwhile, in what may be the last surviving colony of humans on the planet, Julie Grigio also dreams of more. She loves her boyfriend Perry, but wants to feel closer to him. Perry is loyal soldier in the military-like colony government run by Julie's dad. He'll have more time for romance once all the world's zombies have been shot in the head and re-killed.

Julie and Perry, along with Julie's best friend Nora and a handful of others, go out on a raid, collecting medical supplies for the colony from an abandoned pharmacy. They cross paths with a group of zombies, including R, who view them as lunch. Acting on what he refers to as The New Hunger, R chows down on Perry, eating his brain. Thus he receives some of Perry's memories, and strangely, he begins to feel protective toward Julie, saving her from other zombies.

After that grotesque start, the movie veers further from horror-comedy territory and more into the romance genre. Julie can see that R wants to be more like a living person again, and his efforts appear to be paying off. When Nora puts makeup on R to make him look less dead, he almost looks like a living person again. Eventually, Julie, her father and the other survivors have to question whether it's possible for the undead to return to life.

For most of this movie, I felt very bad for Perry. Julie doesn't seem terribly upset about his death or react very badly when R finally confesses that he ate Perry and hands her Perry's gold watch. The film's explanation is that the survivors have seen so much death, they've learned to get over it quickly and not get too attached to other people. Somehow, though, Julie becomes attached to R. When she thinks he's had to sacrifice himself to save her life, she's distraught.

Sometimes while watching this, I thought Julie's attraction to a walking corpse was a little weird. But then I'd think about how much I like vampires, and it didn't seem so bad. After all, Nora does inform us that R doesn't stink.

Except the skeletal-looking Bonies, most of the zombies in this movie don't look very deteriorated or grotesque - nothing like you see on The Walking Dead or in most zombie movies. R looks pretty normal except for his pale skin and eyes, which are weirdly blue with hardly any pupils. Their mostly-preserved state  is a hopeful sign that the ending will be far less bleak than in your typical zombie fare.

R is played by English actor Nicholas Hoult (the boy in About a Boy, young Beast in X-Men: First Class, and Jack in the recent Jack the Giant Slayer). Julie is played by Australian actress Teresa Palmer (6 in I Am Number Four, and the female lead in a quirky Australian thriller with Stephen Moyer that I enjoy, Restraint), and her father is played by John Malkovich. (I adore him.) Perry, whom this movie should really care more about than it does, is played by Dave Franco. He's a beautiful Jewish-American like his older brother James. He's been in a number of TV shows, including GreekScrubs, and Privileged.

Nora is played by Analeigh Tipton, which I understand was a controversial casting choice because Tipton is Caucasian and Nora is described in the book as being of East African descent. I would understand if you were to complain about this, because ethnic diversity in this movie is practically at zero. Does Hollywood seriously think that white people won't watch movies with African-American actors in them? Because whitewashing is ridiculous and stupid.

I didn't love this movie, but I did like it. I'm not sorry that I didn't read the book, which I understand is a little darker than the film version, because I think I like the more romantic version better. Three and a half stars, I'd say. Worth a watch, but not an instant favorite.

Did you read this, and if so, did you enjoy the book? Did you like the movie?

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Till Zombies Do Us Part by Celeste Ayers. $0.99 from
Noah and Amy are two teens in love. There is however one problem; the world as they know it was turned into nothing but a pile of chaos and zombies. As they battle for survival they’ll embark on a journey into the unknown while facing new trials that will put both their love for each other and their humanity to the ultimate test. Just how far will they be willing to go?

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