I think I might have heard about the book before that, but well the premise of it sounded like an even worse version of Twilight, so I didn't pay it too much attention. To my own regret.
Basic premise. A zombie falls in love with a human girl, aka, a zombie story told from the point of view of one of the zombies. So you could be forgiven to think that it's just utterly wrong, I sure did, until I saw the trailer.
The first thing you need to know about Warm Bodies, both the movie and the book, is that R is probably the most adorable zombie imaginable. And I've seen Fido, so that's saying something.
R, played by Nicholas Hoult is thoughtful, sweet, loves music, is a bit of a food snob and groans and moans when he tries to say something. He is looking for connection, even as he eats brains, because eating brains is the only way he can feel alive anymore. He has a good sense of humor, and part of him wants more from life than what he's been dealt with, but he feels unable to grab for it due to being dead.
And then he eats a boy who loves a girl.
Part of me wondered at first if R loved Julie because Perry did, and maybe it started out that way. After all, how can you not fall in love with someone, when you see the best of whom that person is through the eyes of someone who loved them. When he saves Julie, he himself doesn't understand why he does it. He pretty much says it himself.
And Julie... strong, horrified Julie, who still dares to hope. Who wants to live rather than survive. I loved her in the book, but the way Theresa Palmer brought her to life made me love her even more.
There's the utter devastation as her friends are killed by the zombies and this one zombie sinks down beside her, his hand reaching out to her. And he moans her name.
"Corpses look human, they are not. They do not think, they do not bleed. Whether they were your mother, or your best friend, they are beyond help. They are uncaring, unfeeling, uncapable of remorse."
That's part of the video of general Grigio that salvagers are made to watch before heading out in the city. It's clear in the lack of interest of the young survivors made to watch it, that they've seen it before, that they know all this and are bored and annoyed with having to watch it again. The words are put in their heads over and over as part of their training. So when a corpse speaks and covers her face with his blood and then grabs her arm to pull her along with him instead of eating her, Julie is stunned and horrified. Only one of her other friends survived and she knows that if she doesn't follow, that if she doesn't pretend, that she'll probably end up dead like her friends, like her boyfriend. So she follows. But you can see the horror in her face.
This is not love at first sight from Julie's pov. From her side, she's not taking part in a love story, she's stuck in the worst kind of horror, surrounded by corpses, by zombies, surviving only because one corpse is acting 'weird'. And the zombie keeps acting weird, offering her a blanket to make her comfortable, giving her space.
But she's not stupid, she's not a love struck fool. She doesn't fall for him because of that. Even if she might trust him more because of the Stockholm syndrome she's probably falling into, when she can trick him into leaving her for a moment, she grabs the chance and runs.
The only problem with that is, ... she's still in a hive full of corpses and without R and her protection, there's no way she can get passed them without them realizing she's still alive.
And that's the second time he saves her.
In the book when Julie asks for food, because well she's hungry, there's a fun bit about R wondering what she wants to eat. An arm? A leg? herself?
It takes him a moment to realize she means real food.
That line unfortunately isn't in the movie. What is there is the scene of him taking her to the restaurant section and get her food. Sharing a beer, talking, and her insistent demand that she needs to go back home. That she can't stay. With R's internal response of "She can't leave, she just got here."
They compromise, with R making it clear that she has to stay a few days, so he can safely get her out, which isn't wrong. And it's in that time that they get to know one another. Listening to music together, playing games, learning R how to drive. Talking, listening to her. The old fashioned ideas of getting to know one another.
See, Warm Bodies does one thing definitely right that Twilight did wrong. It realizes that connections aren't just made with your love interest. But with your family, your friends. It realizes that Julie needs more than just R to be happy.
Just like R can't be just with Julie, he has a friend called M, and he too gets to know Julie's friend Nora. He connects, and it's through seeing R connect that the other corpses start to connect as well, to seek to live, rather than just survive, to be alive, to care.
And then in the second half of both the movie and the book, Julie gets to save and protect R, like R did for her. And she gets to introduce him to her life, and pulls him further into life.
I'm sure some people would call the ending cheesy, but to me it's perfect, because it's hopeful, because for once there's a post apocalyptic movie that dares to question the notion that things 'have to keep getting worse' and when general Grigio speaks for that exact view of the world, 'Things get worse, people die, they rise, I shoot them in the head', his daughter refuses that reality and Nora stops him from shooting R. The young reject the hopelessness of the old, they reject the notion that the world can't get better. And they fight for a chance at a better tomorrow.
And that's why the movie couldn't go with the ending for Grigio that the book did, because to allow Grigio to die says that you have to lose to gain. But the movie doesn't go with that. The movie instead allows for him to live and change, for him to get pulled along into that hope for a new future. Grumpy, judging, but there with a new lease on life and a willingness to at least try and offer a hand to the former corpses.
Julie falls in her father's arms and hugs him to celebrate that R is alive again. She doesn't run away from family, she doesn't ignore her friends, instead she becomes friends with his friends and brings them all together into life.
And then there's M, dangerous, lovable, adorable M. Who kills and feeds and tells R to just eat Julie already while she's at the airport. But who is also the first affected by the change in him and the connection between them, and who leaves the airport to follow R and join with him because he too wants to live. M who in the middle of a fight scene against the boneys, zombies gone too far to be saved, still wants to say hi to all the human soldiers, wants to connect with them.
M who hugs R when he sees his friends needs it. (and I so much need an icon of that scene as soon as I find a better download)
M who does end up remembering that his name is Marcus, and whom after telling a girl that she's pretty, want to hear her tell him that he's pretty too. Because saying that someone is pretty isn't just something you tell to girls. It's something you say to be nice, so why shouldn't she do the same to him? And unlike R, M is not the hot pretty zombie type like R, but somehow he's just as adorable and lovable as his younger friend.
Or Nora, who wants to be a nurse, who wants to help people. (it's a pity, and one of the few missteps of the movie, that they cast her with a white girl, the actress does a good job, nothing against her, but there's few enough characters of color out there, that it really is a shame that they didn't give the part to an African American actress, since the character is of Ethiopian decent in the book) Nora who still hopes to find a cure, who keeps make up that she'll hope she'll be able to use one day, for the promise of a better tomorrow. Nora who calls Julie on the weirdness of missing a zombie, of having a 'zombie boyfriend' But who is loyal and still gives R a chance regardless of what he is. And the same Nora we see working as a nurse, helping the healing zombies as they're recovering back into life.
In short, I loved the movie, loved the characters, loved the music, loved the ending, with the montage of the former corpses connecting with life, with hope, with just enjoying the sun. And R's voice over works really really well, though I wouldn't have minded if they'd used it even more.