In spite of an original and intriguing premise, Warm Bodies’ deviations from zombie conventions fail to improve upon the template established by George A. Romero. The problem isn’t that Levine’s zombies think and communicate—this idea has been explored in the past—it’s that the director’s pursuit of fresh ideas undermines the credibility of his characters. Based on zombie odour alone, it’s nearly impossible to understand how Julie could fall for R, particularly after watching him kill her boyfriend. (By all indications, the novel manages this dynamic far more credibly.)
Levine extracts some laughs from the irony of this romance, but the relationship only works on a superficial comic level. This might be sufficient if Levine wasn’t so determined to reach for big emotional crescendos at every opportunity. Discarding the dystopian cynicism of so many previous zombie films, he loads Warm Bodies up with emotional rock, both retro (Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Guns N’ Roses) and recent (The National, Bon Iver, M83), in the hope that he can transpose the emotion from this music to the film. The result is a failed effort to bring Cameron Crowe’s brand of romcom transcendence into the most ill-fitting context possible: a savage zombie film.
Combining heartfelt emotion and the inherent darkness of zombies isn’t an altogether bad idea, but it requires a far more precise approach. Instead of managing the tonal complexities of the material, Levine relies on short cuts (music, irony) to achieve his effects. Viewers with no connection to the genre may be more forgiving—the film has some satisfying flourishes—but as the latest development in the ongoing zombie continuum, Warm Bodies is a frustrating, misguided step in the wrong direction.
Want more Warm Bodies? Well then here's InnerSPACE's interview with the stars.