Thursday 21 February 2013

Review: Warm Bodies

Year: 2013
Director: Jonathan Levine
Screenplay: Jonathan Levine
Starring: Nicolas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Rob Corddry, John Malkovich

Synopsis is here

A recent episode of the MAMO podcast in a throwaway comment about the box office, placed a simple what if that really struck me until I found myself sat in the fourth row awaiting Warm Bodies to start. In reference to some studios knee jerk reactions to "underwhelming" box office, the hosts posed the simple question: What if the twilight series stopped after one?

The first entry (2008) entered the market and made a respectable chunk of box office change (Over $300 million). But it's the sequels that really opened eyes (and wallets) with the second film, New Moon, making enough money to clear a third world debt. Summit Entertainment had unlocked a box office "secret": teenage girls enjoy going to the movies too (also called the Titanic equation). Since the series ended, it's no surprise that the fantasy female teen market seems to be a big thing these days. It's no surprise that Hollywood harboured it's energies into the likes of The Hunger Games (2012). So when something like Warm Bodies hits the silver screens, it's quite clear that it's not aimed at me at all. Despite this; like the brains that lead Zombie 'R' (an industrious Nicolas Hoult) pleasingly snacks on, Warm Bodies is easily digestible fodder. For an outsider, the film is not as painful as one might think. 

For me, Warm Bodies is mostly due to the charm of Hoult, who throws himself into a role that is tougher than you think at first glance. Inspired by the physical acting of Jonny Depp's Edward Scissorhands, 'R' is a performance that garners expression from the expressionless. Combined with a dry and witty narration from Hoult, 'R' really carries the film, coming off as a undead Wall-E (check his hoarding skills), 'R' is a much more active protagonist than I ever expected, showing more passion than so many recent heroes. Hoult and the screenplay's often humorous observations, do well to paper over the films weaker points. As amusing as Warm Bodies is, it happily trundles along blissfully unaware that the films meet-cute overstays its welcome. So much so that you release that the film lacks not only a second act, but any real lasting conflict. Warm Bodies may not be Shakespeare however, when your film alludes to Romeo and Juliet, it's important to remember that conflict and strive is vital.

When Warm Bodies focuses on anything other than the musings of its main zombie, it beings to suffer. It's leading lady Julie (Teresa Palmer) turns from outgoing battle chick to thankless distressed maiden trophy extraordinary quickly, while the films last act is one brought on with very little build up or risk. Director Jonathan Levine has tread similar teen waters before, but with denser narratives and stronger themes. Due to the films target audience, Warm Bodies does much to sanitise the very fact that it's a romance about dead people. Anyone looking for any real depth in the subject (if you are a little bit odd) would be better off getting hold of the likes of Dellamorte Dellamore (AKA Cemetery Man) or otherwise. 

But if you know of the previously mentioned title, you probably won't be too bothered with Warm Bodies, a film which is much more primed to give the Twilight crowd another supernatural fix of the zombie flavour. For me, I was relatively entertained by the undead antics of Hoult and co. Interestingly; I was told afterwards that the novel is not a humorous one. I must say thank goodness the film injected laughs; otherwise this review would have ended on a much more sour note.