Nicholas Hoult stars as R, a zombie who spends his days wandering the hallways and tarmac of a large airport. While he is technically a walking corpse, R is anything but lifeless. His internal monologue sarcastically addresses his body’s inability to do more than groan and stagger through what seems to be a (at least partially) conscious mind. The fact that the dead hero can process complex thoughts and even attempt to speak is not explained very well, and is perhaps the one part of the movie that frustrated me the most. That being said, it’s nice to finally hear the zombie’s side of following a global apocalypse, and the fact that he’s conflicted about eating people is an entertaining addition.
One day, when R and his fellow zombies from the airport head into town looking for food, he stumbles across a girl named Julie (Teresa Palmer), who he seems to develop feelings for – although that could just be because he ate her boyfriend’s brain and inherited his memories of her. Anyway, R takes Julie back to the airport to keep her safe from the other zombies, and the more time he spends with her the more he begins to feel human. Later in the film this even flourishes into his vocal capabilities slowly returning. However, she of course wants to one day get back home, which is a problem for R because of how much more lifelike he seems to be around her.
Julie’s father (played by John Malkovich) is the commander in charge of walled-in the city she lives in, and he’s out to get every last zombie with a bullet in the head. A character like this is commonplace in a zombie flick, but its not often that they have to come around to liking zombies like they would a son-in-law – though the formula of a dad not liking his daughter’s choice in boyfriend is so much of a teen rom-com staple that even with the addition of him being a zombie it still feels very cheesy. Despite the presence of romantic film formula here, the post-apocalyptic setting and likeable characters is enough to make it feel new, and by the climax shot under the shadow of Montreal’s Olympic Stadium we are rooting for the stars to get together. I think that in a film where the boy meets the girl as he eats her boyfriend’s brains, the fact that audiences will root for them to be together by the end shows that despite some apparent formulaic cheesiness, Warm Bodies works.
There are other problems with this film I could complain about, such as how “bonies”, the extra-bad skeletal zombies who have no remorse, are an inanimate feature brought in mid-way through the film simply for the purpose of finding a common enemy between the humans and the “good” zombies. Another qualm I had was about R’s monologue, but you know what; despite these problems I enjoyed the film, and I can say with some confidence that many in Warm Bodies’ target niche will love this movie. The acting is convincing and the characters likeable, add that to the comedy, the ironic backdrop, as well as a bit of originality in telling the zombie's perspective, and you have a pretty decent zom-rom-com.