May 4, 2014

Warm Bodies

Jonathan Levine, 2013
Young zombie "R" (Nicholas Hoult), who retains a sense of consciousness after turning undead, finds himself changing yet again after coming into contact with  living human Julie (Teresa Palmer).

Jonathan Levine's heavily-CGI'd Zom-Rom-Com takes the threadbare zombie genre and ultimately delivers a refreshing twist. In a plot that could be pitched as My Boyfriend's Back meets BBC's In the Flesh mini-series, Levine provides an engaging story that is delivered using a simple three-act structure where zombie gets girl, zombie loses girl, zombie gets girl back. Through elaborate digitally-constructed set-design, Warm Bodies reveals a dystopian graffiti-glazed landscape where humans are really faced with two opposing forces: quick-moving zombies and even-quicker zombie sub-class Boney's (who greatly resemble the creatures in I Am Legend). The streets, largely unforgiving, are closed off by a fortified wall protecting the remaining surviving humans from the hungry brain-eaters in the remnants of the old city. Levine creates zombies that hunt in packs and have routines. When they capture a meal they feast on the brain. This gives them the ability to absorb their memories, all of which is displayed through snappy editing in which you yourself feast on the eye candy of warmly-lit sentimental moments from the unfortunate victim's past.

It's not only what Levine does with the story that makes it work, it's also what he doesn't do. He doesn't dumb the film down by spending time explaining things to the newcomer. He effectively lays out the back-story by using R's narrative. He also doesn't make things unnecessarily complex either by making the often-used social statements or satirical notes like so many other zombie films. Instead, he introduces you to R, who can barely mumble a word in the first few minutes. It's a slow build. At first you're stuck in the confines of an airport fuselage listening to old Dylan LP's with him. But as R's heart begins to beat again, and the color slowly returns to his face, the story comes to life. By the climax, you're on board and wish you could be there with a baseball bat in your hands fighting alongside everyone. 

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