Monday, March 4, 2013

Movie Time: Warm Bodies Review & Interpretation

Since I'm now living in a flat that's directly next to a shopping center and cinema, i actually have a realistic chance of really seeing all the movies I see in previews and that interest me a lot - usually it was lack of time to go to the cinema but now I live really close to one and it's rather cheap to go to there on certain days :)

One of the movies I really wanted to see was "Warm Bodies".
My boyfriend showed me a funny review of the movie on youtube a few weeks ago and I was immediately hooked up on the idea of the story and it seemed to be pretty funny.

So last Thursday I had my presentation at the university about my internship, and it went really well actually, though I was scared that somebody would start asking mean questions or something :'D To celebrate this a little, we went to see the movie. Ohh and how I had missed the pop corn ♥

So,  the movie itself was pretty good and I liked it a lot.

If you have never heard of it before, here's a short summary (minor spoilers):

The world was hit by zombie Apocalypse, and the few remaining humans live gathered in an area protected by a giant wall. But the story does not focus on the survivors at first, instead we follow a young and very handsome dead man called R (the rest of his name he doesn't remember) who is rather frustrated about his current state, and explains in witty off-screen comments the world he lives in. 
One day, he and his zombie "friends" go hunting for humans, on which they feed, where he meets the beautiful Julie, who is with a few fellow survivors on a mission outside the wall to gather resources. Zombies and survivors battle, R ends up eating Julie's boyfriends brain (but he was a douchebag anyway) and falls in love with her - as far as he can tell. Anyway, these newly incited feelings inside him make him practically abduct and protect her from the other zombies instead of eating her too, and during the time he spends with her he slowly starts to return more and more to a somewhat human state - which would be a really boring love story if it weren't also for the inherent repulsion Julie feels at first (before Stockholm syndrome kicks in, because it will take another third of the movie until the superficial bitch realizes that that guy looks freaking hot!!), R's inability to express himself adequately apart from zombie-like grunting and moaning (though this gets better over time too), the fact that the other zombies are not so fond of her as a person, and rather as food, and Julie's father who is the zombie-hunting and -hating leader of the last human settlement. Oh, and of course the "Bonies", super-zombies that have lost every last trace of their human-ness and fast and cruel hunters craving for human flesh...

So, is this a romantic movie?
Yes it is, a lot actually, but the romance never gets "cheesy" or feels awkward or out of place, the movie also manages to efficiently avoid all vicarious embarrassment, which is in combination pretty rare for that genre.

Is this a horror movie?
Rather not. While the thought of zombie apocalypses generally freak me out as much as any other end-of-the-world-nothing-left-scenario (like nuclear disasters or wars or non-zombie pandemics or what have you) this particular movie was very un-scary, mostly because it was actually a zombie narrating the story. While the Bonies looked impressively revolting, there was no scary moment per se. There was some tension in some situations and scenes, but no real horror or splatter. So it's suitable for those who don't really like horror movies and are easily scared, imo.

Is it an action movie?
No. I really didn't mind because I don't necessary need exploding stuff or prolonged exchanges of fire to feel entertained. The scenes where protagonists were fighting or running from zombies/Bonies/soldiers were not too long and the cuts between different scenes or happenings at different places were very well timed, so I felt at no point bored. A fan of action movies would probably be disappointed though.

Is it funny?
Oh yes it definitely is. A few times I laughed so loud that i was actually afraid I might have startled the other people in the cinema :'D R's comments are really witty, there is a lot of situational comedy and some ironic side blows on society.

In general, I really liked the movie, not only but also largely due to the fact that I really liked Nicholas Hoult, the actor who played R. I think he really did a great job playing a creature that is physically unable to express feelings and words properly, while at the same time suffering from the lack of communication and seemingly unrequited love to a human girl. Also, I think that guy is really handsome (I think I mentioned that before? XD) and he looks a damn lot like John Barrowman (Jack Harkness from Doctor Who/Torchwood) whom I also consider really handsome. All in all, maybe I just enjoyed looking at him a lot? Well, maybe ^^

Other than that, I really liked the story too. The idea of a zombie boy falling in love with a human girl might following the already pretty worn out scheme of a supernatural creature loving a mortal, but it takes on a new direction by showing us the point of view of the non-human protagonist. Also, there are not many movies about zombies showing us the world through their eyes - the only one I could think about was "Wasted Away" (I didn't even see that one. Was it any good?). Generally, zombies are usually rather used as cannon fodder in movies, and I think it's a great idea to elucidate their state of mind, in this case showing us that traces of their humanity are well preserved, and they reflect about their deeds (like R does a lot) and are not in fact mindless, walking bodies. I just like the idea or rather the concept of zombies being more than walking flesh, I find it just as interesting as "I am Legend"'s original end, where ... oh, I won't spoiler that one for you, if you're interested, just look it up yourself :)

Spoiler alert from here on!

What I especially liked about the movie was the romance. This is a rare thing for me to say, because I hate romantic movies in general (I watched Twilight because I read the books and the Fantasy aspect of the story weighed out the cheesiness of the romance to some extent, at least for me). But R and Julie's story was convincing and never felt like "too much" or exaggerated at any point.

At some point during the movie I started to realize that their names might very well be allusions to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. In fact, there were so many allusions to the play that I started to worry that end the end everyone might just die. For example, there's the easily recognizable fact that the two of them are supposed to be enemies like the Montagues and Capulets, but fall in love. Then there's R's friend "M" (turns out to be "Marcus" but can be a reference to Mercutio), who fights a horde of Bonies with the other zombies to protect R and Julie - where I expected him to die, to be honest. Then there was the balcony scene, which was kind of the last, dead sure giveaway to me. At that point I was really expecting the couple to die at the end. If you saw the movie, I guess you can imagine me cringing at the scene at the stadium, where they jump from the threshold and R protects Julie - and doesn't wake up at first. "That's it" I thought. "He's dead."
But he wasn't! And then not even Julie's father shot him dead, and they managed to turn the whole story to a happy end! I was so, so happy that I was wrong with my assumptions!

This could actually be a pretty big message "hidden" away in that movie. When comparing R and Julie's story to Romeo and Juliet's, we can see a lot of similarities, and yet one ends tragically and the other has a perfect happy end. The question is, what made the difference? Was it just the writer's will? I would say, no. In my opinion, the main reason is the common enemy, that makes the humans and zombies unite and fight together: the Bonies. In Shakespeare's story, there is no such element of course, but in "Warm Bodies" we have the rivaling groups fighting side by side and also recognizing their similarities, the humans start to see that there is still life left in the zombies and that with their help they can become human again.
We can now either simply put it down to the point that this whole "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" situation is all there is to it. But I think there is even more meaning to the story than that.

In the movie, the zombies learn what it means to be human again. In the end, it is shown how the humans and zombies cooperate and live and work together, and the zombies, like R before them, slowly regain their humanity by interacting with humans. So in order to resolve the conflict - flesh eating zombies versus humans - one of the two sides had to change and adapt to become more like the other side. It took one representative of each site to initiate this change, but in the end, the zombies change "for the better" and become human again, which is most likely what they wanted - if they were like R, who was apparently very keen on experiencing what it means to be a normal human. However, he also wonders if the others have the same thoughts as him, and we never really get to know if he might not simply be the only zombie who retains so much of his human side that he has these thoughts (all illustrated especially well in the monologue in the beginning of the movie).

There is another question, which is why he fell in love with Julie to begin with. Of course, he eats her boyfriend's brain, which causes him to re-live certain memories and experience his emotions. However it is indicated that he noticed Julie as something special even before that, and it is also hinted that Perry, the boyfriend, was not very appreciative of his relationship with Julie anymore anyway. So maybe R was really something special, meaning that he retained enough of his humanity to be able to experience love at first sight, which was something like a kickstarter for his transformation back into a human. Maybe zombies are above all other "symptoms" deprived of neurotransmitters and by eating the brain of a human they can resupply their bodies for a while, experiencing some human emotions. Both factors combined (love at first sight and eating the brain of a human) might have initiated the transformation in R, and the two factors alone would not have worked out equally well.

There is another "moral" or motive to that. The zombies eat human brains because they "miss" these human emotions. They eat them to be able to feel again, and ultimately, the solution of the conflict is that they turn into their former "prey", which enables them to feel again on their own, without having to feed on human brains. This comes down to a simple "You are what you eat" motive. It shows another aspect of the final solution of the conflict, where one side has to turn into the other to truly resolve the situation.

The final question that lingers around is whether or not it is necessary that zombies turn back into humans in order to resolve the conflict. Apart from the fact that it was necessary for R and Julie to prove that R is bleeding (because the zombies don't whereas humans do) to Julie's father to prevent him from shooting R, would it not have been enough for the zombies to start to feel again and regenerate from their "stupor" in order to stop the fighting itself? Imagining Julie's father had a less violent nature, would it be possible to achieve a coexistence between humans and zombies without them wholly returning to their human origins?

I am not sure about that. While I personally would have loved it if the zombies retain something of their former zombie selves, it is made clear that they return completely to human "status", indicated by their change in skin tone, eye color and even their scars vanishing. I found that last point especially baffling, because it basically means "unmaking" something that is otherwise impossible. Physically the zombies turn into humans without any visible trace of their former state, however they quite possibly keep the memories they had during their time as zombies, such as hunting humans and eating their brains, maybe even some of the memories of their victims. I imagine this to be quite traumatizing, then again, maybe they just slowly forget about their pasts as zombies during their change.

Still, I would have preferred the zombies to stay non-human at least at some point. The way the movie (and probably also the novel on which it was based) puts it, the zombies need to prove that they can change 100% down to the point where they start to bleed again and their eye color returns to normal etc. before they are accepted. I think - and this is one of the main messages I take with me from that movie - this tells a lot about our ways of regarding and resolving conflicts. We are not capable to accept a compromise in most cases. We do not want somebody to come a step forward towards our direction or understand our point or be similar to us. In order to accept them, they have to be like us. In order to resolve the conflict, the have to come over to our side, because a 50/50 solutions is not enough for us. And this is also why in reality, conflicts are so much more difficult to resolve. Because most people just won't meet their adversaries half way, they will wait at their end until the other comes the whole way, and concerning that mot people are like that some conflicts will just never be really resolved.

In the end, this causes the movie's happy ending to have a bitter taste to it, when even Julie can only acknowledge the fact that R is actually really good looking when he is covered in layers of make up that make him more human-like (though she already described her feelings for him to Nora earlier, I give her that at least).

So the movie has a happy ending, but the more I think about it (and I do admit I am probably over-interpreting this quite much) the more unrealistic it seems. Because human nature is like Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet. It is violent, revengeful and full of hate for "others". The fact that the zombies were able to fully return to being humans was sheer luck, the fact that M didn't die and R didn't feel the need to take revenge like Romeo did after Mercutio's death was too convenient, the fact that R didn't die (again) from jumping from the stadium was a lot of luck again and the fact that Julie's dad doesn't shoot him dead right afterwards and heard the two of them out was another positive surprise. And lastly, the simple fact that R had still enough capability to experience human emotion left to fall in love with Julie - and that he actually met her - was luck too.

I like the movie because it doesn't feel the need to slaughter it's protagonists and it proves to me that a movie can be good without any major or side characters dying (except for the boyfriend, but he was a douchebag). Yet it makes me sad that the real world rarely provides us with enough of the "luck" the protagonists experience. So on one hand, other movies/scripts/books enjoy to make us like and love their characters only to kill them off gruesomely and make us suffer and are supposed to make us reflect about our inevitable fate, this story explicitly (in the sense that even characters you would 'expect' to die sometimes several times, like M and Nora, do not get killed) does not do that. But on the other hand, in this story the protagonists are upon closer inspection blessed with such ridiculous amounts of sheer luck, that it makes me personally reflect about the "unfairness" of real life in comparison non the less. Which is an interesting - while somewhat depressing - thought to have by itself, and in the end the "happy ending" caused me to think about it all a lot more than an "unhappy ending" would have.

It made me reflect a lot about the behavior of humans in conflicts and made me realize that the key point that allows the whole conflict in the movie to be resolved is really the complete change from zombie to human with the key scene being where R gets shot and bleeds from it. Less than 100% transformation would have been unacceptable, and after all that insane amount of luck the protagonists had up to that point, this could have been enough for their efforts to be all in vain, because not being able to prove R's transformation to a human, Julie's father most probably would have shot him.
It's actually a really sad reflection of our own society, if you think about it that way. But that's the way it is. You can fight as hard as you like, in the end it might take only a single person who opposes you to bring you down and make your efforts in vain.

But then again, I am overthinking it probably anyway :) Maybe those things were not even intended or meant that way by the writer, yet these are the conclusion I come to when I compare it to the similar story of Romeo and Juliet. 

Anyway. Overall, I really, really liked that movie.
So much that I actually consider making it part of my "favorite movies" list. Because it's a funny, interesting, nice to look at and a romance that doesn't actually make me wanna barf.

So, now that you've read through all of my rambling, why don't you let me know what you think about the movie in the comments! :)

Aaaaaand so that you don't forget how I look like: this is how I look like. Yey!
(More interesting pictures coming soon, stay tuned and check out my instagram for a sneak peak ;D )


  1. den film will ich mir auch noch anschauen :)

  2. Wenn du den Film magst würd ich an deiner Stelle das Buch lesen. :) Isaac Marion schreibt wunderschön und einige Charaktere weisen doch ein bisschen mehr Tiefe auf als im Film.

    1. Das möchte ich auf jeden Fall noch machen! :D

  3. So, ich hab den Film gestern abend geguckt und zum Glueck ist mir wieder eingefallen, dass du ne Review geschrieben hast. Wollte mich zunaechst erstmal nicht spoilern.

    Ich war erstmal sehr ueberrascht, dass es nur ganz selten wirklich albern wurde (und bei einer Lovestory zwischen Zombie und Mensch laueft man schnell Gefahr, dass das ganze ins Laecherliche abrutscht ^^).
    Aber schon der einfuehrende innere Monolog war sehr "sensibel" geschrieben, fand ich. Ich finde manchmal waehlen Schreiber in aehnlichen Szenen einen zu abgeklaerten Ton. Weil es ist ja grundsaetzlich irgendwie ne maennliche Machtfantasie, komplett gefuehllos zu sein und Killermaschine (zumindest denkt Hollywood, Maenner faenden das toll ^^"). Ich hatte erwartet, dass die Zombies in ihrer Brutalitaet total gefeiert werden aber statt dessen wurde eben Wert auf die Menschlichkeit gelegt, das fand ich toll :).

    Ich hab das ganze irgendwie auch als Metapher gesehen fuer Menschen, die nicht mehr gescheit fuehlen koennen. Fuer die finde ich den Begriff Zombie auch total passend.
    Also Leute, die so traumatisiert sind oder so lange unter Depressionen gelitten haben, dass sie nur noch Leere empfinden und den quaelenden "Schatten", von Gefuehlen die einmal da waren.

    Diese versuchen ja oft, durch Drogen etwas zu fuehlen - dazu das Pendant im Film: Gehirn essen.
    Ausserdem koennen sie durch Interaktion mit "gesunden" Menschen wieder lernen selber zu fuehlen.

    Ich finde den Drogenvergleich fuers Hirn auch ganz passend, weil sowohl brains als auch human interaction lassen die Zombies ja fuehlen. Aber wenn sie nur brains nommen werden sie zu Bonies waehrend ECHTE menschliche Gefuehle sie heilen.

    Bonies waehren dann quasi Menschen, die emotional so verkuemmert sind, dass sie anderen Menschen nurnoch schaden koennen und auch nie wieder ins menschlich-sein zurueckfinden koennen.

    Ich weiss aber noch nicht, was dann das Pendant zum Blut nach dem Schuss waere. Da hakt meine Interpration jetzt xD

    Was hat mich gestoert??
    Julie verhaelt sich zwischenmenschlich zu R wie der Elephant im Porzellanladen D:!!! Und allgemein ist ihr Verhalten bescheuert. Sie laeuft die ganze Zeit weg und kackt dann R an, dass sie in Gefahr ist O_o sie hat voll die Vorurteile gegen Markus und will nicht zu ihm ins "Auto" steigen - warum??!

  4. Und welcher Mensch, ernsthaft, welcher Mensch macht bei Leuten, die er nicht besonders gut kennt, eine Platte an und faengt dann mit halbgeschlossenen Augen an, im Zimmer rumzutanzen?! Ich weiss, dass Hollywood dieses Motiv gerne verwendet weil das irgendwie die Ungezwungenheit und Natuerlichkeit im Gegensatz zu einem verstockten und zu verkopftem Mann illustrieren soll.
    (Ausserdem kann man so "glaubhaft" darstellen, dass Leute sich verlieben, ohne dass man einen guten Dialog schreiben muesste.)
    Aber dieses Motiv ist KACKE! Niemand tut sowas! Wenn ich vor Leuten zuhause tanze, dann weil ich die gut kenne und warscheinlich stell ich auch als Lied "Snap You've got the power" oder sowas an und tanze wie ein Bibabutzemann auf Acid und schwinge nicht vertraumt meine Haare und Hueften auf dass man meine SChoenheit bewundern darf... argh.

    Und wie ultrakacke war Ronda? Oder hiess sie Nora? Die BFF halt.
    Als Julie ihr schweren Herzens gesteht, dass sie sich in einen Zombie verliebt hat, steht ihre beste Freundin ihr mit ernsthaftem Rat bei und geht sensibel mit ihren Gefuehlen um ^^? NEEEEE. "oh myyy gosh, you do realize thats WEIRD?" "i'll leave you alone now so you can dream about your ZooOOOombie booOOOoyfriiiiend" - ich haette das Maedel ja erschlagen. Da vertraut man sich jemanden an, der macht sich in 3 Saetzen ueber dich lustig und verpisst sich dann? Und Julie grinst dann auch noch was mir warscheinlich vermitteln soll, was sich liebt das neckt sich, oder so.

    Ich fand R uebrigens nicht so supergeilo, jedenfalls bis sie ihm die Haare beim schminken zurueckgekaemmt haben, das sah supi aus aber umso enttauschter war ich, als sie in der naechsten Szene wieder zum Ausgangsstatus zurueckkehren.

    aehm ja :D

    Und am stoerendsten natuerlich... warum musste er bluten O_o?? Folgendes Szenario: Die Zombies entwickeln sich aus irgendwelchen Gruenden wieder zu Menschen, behalten jedoch eine kannibalistische Tendenz. Sie bluten, sind aber immernoch gefaehrlich. Lassen die die dann rein?
    Das Blut hat so null damit zu tun, ob sie wertvolle Mitglieder der Gesellschaft sind/werden koennen. Erst dachte ich, oh mann ist das Ende billig. Aber nachdem ich deine Review gelesen hab, bin ich gewillt das ganze mehr zu verstehen wie du.
    Menschen verhalten sich naemlich wirklich so und das hast du sehr gut beschrieben, mit dem Entgegenkommen und so.

    Was denkste darueber?

    Liebe Gruesse, freezy


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