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Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013 04:45 am

The Bard meets the undead in Warm Bodies

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By now, one would think that the whole zombie thing had been played out. However, Jonathan Levine delivers something quite unique with his adaptation of Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies, a zombie love story that is far more interested in what it means to be alive than dead. Using Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as its template, the film examines issues pertaining to our humanity, reminding us that our memories are the key to maintaining our identities and without them no sort of connection, between the dead or undead, can be made. Yes, believe it or not, its theme is quite similar to that of one of this year’s Best Picture nominees for the Oscar, Michael Haneke’s Amour.

Doing what zombies do, R (Nicholas Hoult) and his undead crew are set to chow down on a group of human scavengers when the unexpected happens – he makes a connection with a young beauty named Julie (Teresa Palmer). Wanting to protect her rather than eat her, he leads her to the airport where the dead hang out and they spend a few days in the airplane he’s commandeered. Miraculously, R starts to slowly become human again, feeding off the contact he has with Julie while adopting the memories of her boyfriend, which he has access to by continuing to eat handfuls of his brain. As you can see, it’s a traditional love story, one that has its fair share of difficulties, chief among them Julie’s father (John Malkovich) who happens to be the militant leader of the last-remaining humans.

The film is very clever in the way it channels teenage angst through the prism of being a zombie. After all, the undead are the ultimate outsiders and Hoult is quite good at displaying not only his character’s physical and emotional awkwardness but his gradual resurrection as well. Palmer is fine as well, looking properly luminous and distressed, depending on the situation. In the end, you can’t help but smile at the film’s simple yet meaningful message. It’s only through sincere interaction with others that we foster our sense of humanity. If you opt to exist in an alienated state, you’re just as good as dead.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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