6.15.2013

Cinematic Saturdays: Warm Bodies

Intro: Here we are again, stale coffee in hand, for another riveting installation of Cinematic Saturdays! In this segment I, Carolynn, dissect a novel and its celluloid counterpart. What? They don’t use celluloid anymore? Whatever. This week we’re headin’ to the dark side to discuss one of my all time LEAST favorite paranormal trends, zombies.

I know, I know, The Walking Dead and all that. Zombies are all the rage but I know for a fact I’m not alone in thinking that, as villains, zombies are about as scary as a hoard of shuffling ninety-year-olds with bum hips. That being said, I’ve encountered a couple zombie tales that threatened to steal my heart or, more appropriately, eat my brain. One of these is the recently adapted, Warm Bodies.







Title: Warm Bodies
Author: Isaac Marion
Publisher: Atria
Publication Date: October 28, 2010
Pages: 239
Genre: YA Dystopian

Rating:

Summary (from Goodreads): R is a young man with an existential crisis--he is a zombie. He shuffles through an America destroyed by war, social collapse, and the mindless hunger of his undead comrades, but he craves something more than blood and brains. He can speak just a few grunted syllables, but his inner life is deep, full of wonder and longing. He has no memories, no identity, and no pulse. Just dreams.

After experiencing a teenage boy's memories while consuming his brain, R makes an unexpected choice that begins a tense, awkward, and strangely sweet relationship with the victim's human girlfriend. Julie is a burst of vibrant color in the otherwise dreary and gray landscape that R lives in. His decision to protect her will transform not only R, but his fellow Dead, and perhaps their whole lifeless world...

Scary, funny, and surprisingly poignant, Warm Bodies is about being alive, being dead and the blurry line in between

I know what you’re thinking. Something along the lines of “Zombie Romance?” with a dizzying eye roll thrown in, right? And any fellow Twilight haters who just hopped on Google were no doubt put off by the endorsement by Stephenie Meyer. BUT you can trust me when I say that Isaac Marion has succeeded at constructing a genuinely funny, loving dynamic between zombie, “R,” and quirky bombshell, Julie, that is in no way ridiculous.

There are a lot of surprises when reading this book, from the amount of metaphor, to the hopeful, globally conscious ending, to the poetic narrative, which all lend to what I believe makes this story work; the element of surprise. As a reader you don’t expect a zombie to have an inner monologue and you certainly don’t expect him to be a hero. However, as much as I’d love to keep gushing I’ve got to be at least a little critical, right? And what I regard as being one of the book’s biggest strengths may also be a weakness.

All of my favorite stories are those that theoretically work under any circumstances, the ones in which setting, time and even conflict are virtually inconsequential. If “R” weren’t a zombie, but just an average young adult male undergoing a quarter-life crisis, he’d cease to be a hero and become just another townie mulling in existential post-teen angst. Take away the infection and there isn’t a ton of originality there. To be fair, it comes down to reader preference and specific writing strengths. Isaac Marion is undeniably talented, but is arguably more of a linguist/poet than a storyteller.

One other, albeit smaller and entirely feministic, beef I had was with Julie who, while definitely a bit of a “tough cookie,” exists in a world that necessitates her constant protection. R is ceaselessly mumbling about “keeping her safe,” which is sweet and all but also a bit insulting. Julie has a shotgun and an industrially fortified football stadium. She doesn’t need some half-rotted dude to keep her safe (sorry, R).

Overall, I loved and was endlessly entertained by this book. I ate its brain, it ate mine. It was all very PG 13. I give it a solid four out of five stars.


I have to admit my hopes weren’t high for this film. It all seemed too convenient, the zombie trend, the romance, the Valentine’s Day release date. And come on, there’s at least a little irony in the rampant commercialization of a genre about mindless masses senselessly chasing something. Commercialism, zombies, you get the picture. And so I sat in the dark atop my sticky theater seat prematurely disappointed for how hard the coming hour and a half would suck.

I was thrilled to be proven wrong.

One thing that impressed me even from the opening credits was how well director Jonathan Levine captured the book’s humor. I laughed out loud at several points throughout the movie. And while the film has genuine comedic value, the story wasn’t at all cheapened or flattened out. It’s filled with themes of sacrifice and effort, messages like “just because the world sucks isn’t an excuse not to try.” I got teary at the end.

Virtually my only issues with this movie were with casting (every Warm Bodies fan knows where I’m going with this). Nora, an important secondary character who in the book is black, is played by Analeigh Tipton, who is, well… really, really white. Don’t get me wrong she did a fine job, but that doesn’t stop me from being confused. During production when fans asked why this choice was made they were told it was because she best exemplified Nora’s character, which, I’m sorry, I have to call bunk on since she couldn’t have been on screen for more than ten minutes. I was also disappointed with the elimination of Rosso who, while a fairly minor character in the book, is the only real example of genuine goodness in an older generation.

My only other complaint is “why in the actual hell would they choose that font for the opening credits?” Seriously, what was that? Did their graphics guy quit? Did they receive a cease and desist on their original font use and have to switch to something public domain at the last minute? Whatever it was, it was weird.
 
In Closing: If you haven’t already, read this book and watch the movie before the sequel comes out! You can purchase either the novel or film (or both!) via the links below. And for those who have read/watched/loved it and don’t know, there is a prequel novella called “The New Hunger” currently available, which is filled with just as much buttery, decadent narrative language as the original.

As always, feel free to leave comments. Which book/film would you like me to review next?

Infinite love,