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March 28, 2013

The Lowdown on Warm Bodies: Movie vs. Book

by Hana Hong

Movie theatres all across the globe recently saw the release of Jonathan Levine’s adaptation of Isaac Marion’s zombie romance novel Warm Bodies, much known as a Night of the Living Dead take on Romeo and Juliet. I initially sauntered into the showing of Warm Bodies with no significant expectations, mainly regarding it as yet another addition to the American zombie craze. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the film, so much so that I stopped by my local bookstore to pick up a copy of the book itself.

Warm Bodies has often been referred to as Twilight with zombies. I must strongly disagree with this analysis- Warm Bodies is sharp and fun where Twilight comes across dry and awkward.  The story occurs in a post-apocalyptic world ruined by the plague and infested with zombies. The film opens to an airport filled with corpses, the undead who hold on to a fraction of humanity still lingering in their rotting brains. Our protagonist, known only as R (Nicholas Hoult), serves also as our narrator, carrying us through the horrifying world as he knows it. However, that world is plunged into disarray when apocalypse survivor and love interest, Julie (Teresa Palmer), stumbles into his life, sparking ripples of life and color back into his insipid life.

Many significant adaptations are made for the journey from the book to the camera. The modifications made by Levine translate proficiently to the screen, making for a brisk, entertaining film with lovable characters and a working plotline. Marion’s book is undoubtedly brilliant, but it certainly doesn’t read off like a screenplay. Levine managed to take the most cinematic portions of the book and tweak the rest into a satisfying film.

In an artistic viewpoint, the movie was quirkily fascinating. The artists behind Warm Bodies did a fantastic job of the settings without going overboard. The locations were familiar but decrepit enough to prove that this was indeed a zombie flick. The soundtrack managed to be sardonic and still appropriate, including a few ingenious references to 80’s music.

The casting was also very well pulled off-Theresa Palmer played a rather convincing apocalypse survivor, while Nicholas Hoult and his lovable awkwardness fit the role of R perfectly. The chemistry was magical. We watch Julie’s feelings for R grow from horror to bafflement to fascination, and eventually love. Marion effectively fosters the intriguing idea that a living girl could fall in love with a zombie boy, and the film does the same.

From the exterior, the plotline might come across as rather archetypal and irritating, but it isn’t so. It’s actually dryly clever and a fresh beautiful take on classic zombie conventions. It differs boldly and successfully from the typical zombie lore, providing a much-needed new pace in the genre. The film does cover that aspect beautifully, but in many particulars, Levine’s script deviates from its source material. As charming and enjoyable as the movie was, the book trumps it without a doubt. Although the film does a great job at the romantic and comic aspects of the novel, the camera is unable to capture the deeper elements Marion has subtly intertwined within. The novel is beautifully and tragically written, juggling with the fragile balance between morality and insanity, implying at what truly makes us human, and relaying the overwhelming power of hope. Though perhaps a little cheesy and a smidge bit predictable, Warm Bodies is a truly thought-provoking piece full of wit and charm that is definitely worth the read.

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