February 1, 2013
Letter grade: A
Movie reviews aren’t a regular thing for me. I’m an all-around geek, but I’m first and foremost a book person, so there are lots of people better qualified to analyze the movie medium than I. However, when a movie comes out based on print source material I’m familiar with, I think it only makes sense to offer what I find sorely lacking in most movie criticism: the book person’s perspective.
Yeah, I’m that annoying movie patron who can’t stop whispering in her husband’s ear every time the movie diverges from the book, explaining every original plot subtlety that gets glossed over or forgotten, but I know there are more people out there like me, and when I’m deciding whether or not to go see an interpretation of a book I know, those are the whispers I’m hoping to hear in advance. So, mixed with my usual earnest but probably inept efforts to be fair to movie itself, here they are:
As you can see below, I’m a great fan of Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion, and as you can see above, I think the movie did a pretty damn good job. Structurally, it’s a lot more faithful than I was expecting. It has its inevitable cuts and simplifications, mostly trimming R’s darker moments, softening the characters in general, and streamlining the ending, which, while appropriately grand in its original form, is a little chaotic even with the level of explanation possible in a novel. Most of what there is of the movie feels like it rose from the book fully formed.
Tonally, the two pieces are quite different, the movie skewing toward the lighter side in more than just its cuts, but it works. The book is darkly poetic in a way that would be difficult to present onscreen, where the audience is necessarily a little further outside of R’s mind, his first person narration limited to cinematically acceptable doses. In fact, given zombie/human love story concept, it’s remarkable that Marion was able to get away with the straight-faced approach so spectacularly even on the page, with nothing to interrupt the gorgeous prose of R’s undead mind. The movie plays it mostly for laughs, embracing the inherent silliness that the book managed to defy, but without betraying the story’s underlying sweetness.
The visual presentation of the Boneys is properly terrifying, as savage and faceless and unreasonable as a traditional zombie horde but with those eerie, anatomy-class-accurate, naked skeletal proportions. Teresa Palmer embodies Julie’s balance of strength and hopeless optimism beautifully, and Nicholas Hoult is perfect as R in all his stages of undeath, sad, charming, a little frightening when necessary, and every bit as funny as this retelling demands.
Whether you’ve read the book or not, I’d heartily recommend the movie. It’s enjoyable either way (my husband, who has not read the book yet, can back me up on that), and it makes for an ideal date night (Valentine’s Day alert!).
And, of course, whether you’ve read the book or not, read it! Or re-read it! It’s just that awesome!