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SYFY WIRE zombies

Is 'Warm Bodies' the most optimistic zombie movie ever?

Why can't zombies have a positive outlook? 

By Adam Pockross
Warm Bodies (2013)

Zombies, they're normally not just like us. But in Warm Bodies (now streaming on Peacock!), zombie R (Nicholas Hoult) simply wants to connect with other people, like most humans. Alas, it seems most of the former people are now zombies… so connectivity ain’t easy.

But Warm Bodies is that rare optimistic zombie movie, mostly because we feel so sympathetic for our romantic lead. We get to really feel the loneliness at the heart of the zombie apocalypse, and R doesn’t want to be lonely anymore. Sure, he’s got a best friend (Robb Cordry), but they pretty much just stare at each other and grunt unintelligibly.  

Thankfully, Hoult's narration carries the heavy load of making us sympathize with R, with a big assist to the music department, which nails the mood of the film early and often with Jimmy Cliff’s “Sitting Here in Limbo,” John Waite's “Ain’t Missing You,” Guns n’ Roses’ “Patience,” The Boss’ “Hungry Heart,” and Bob Dylan’s “Shelter From the Storm” all expressing the sentiments that R has so much trouble conveying.

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But while Warm Bodies is most certainly a zombie movie, it’s also really a love story, a rom-com at heart. Sure, it’s got all the death, destruction, end-of-times chaos, and brain-eating you could ask for, but eating brains takes on a whole new meaning when the gorging zombie can see what’s going through his meal's mind.

Indeed, it’s love at first sight when R eats the brains of Julie’s (Teresa Palmer) boyfriend, Perry (Dave Franco), and gets to experience falling in love with her from Perry’s former point of view. Somehow, R finds that connection he’s been longing for… much to Julie’s fear and dismay; as other zombies approach, R throws some blood on her and passes her off as one of their own, and brings her back to the airport lair where the mostly undead have decided to hunker down.

Traditionally, rom-coms are based on all the things that drive a couple apart before finding the commonalities that ultimately bring them together, and you just don’t get further apart than zombie versus human. Of course, most zombies don’t have a sentimental streak, but R sure does. When Julie comes into his life, that sentimental heart starts to beat again. And being forced to spend their days alone on an airplane or face the hungry mob gives them all the time they need to bond. Good thing they got that record player.

Of course, with any good rom-com, before the real love comes, the separation does. That's exactly what happens when R reveals he killed Perry. (Mmm, brains!) With Julie gone, R says he’d rather feel nothing than all the pain of losing her. But R feels. All the feels. And on his long walk home after Julie leaves him, he sees what his feelings have given to the rest of his zombie buddies.

Somehow, the love between a human and a zombie isn’t even the most optimistic thing about Warm Bodies; it’s that their love stirs something in the rest of zombie-kind… or at least the ones who haven’t turned into full-on walking skeletons, aka boneys. And that stirring… actual feeling… awakens a whole movement. R’s buddies come looking for him. Hope is not lost.

So R has to tell Julie about such a movement because that could change the whole landscape as far as fighting the “corpses” goes. So they do the whole Romeo (aka R) and Juliet (aka Julie) thing on the balcony. And then R showers and becomes a hot zombie. Yeah, optimism abounds. Well, until Julie tells her dad, Colonel Grigio (John Malkovich) that she’s kind of in love with a corpse. Awkward!

Hey, at least it’s not a Boney. And bonus, it only takes one gunshot from dad to realize that all that love Julie has shown R has gotten his blood flowing again. R feels it all. Love wins. The corpses start playing catch and tag. The walls between humans and corpses crumble. Which spells good things for the future of humanity. And makes for the most optimistic zombie movie out there.  

Up next, Hoult plays the titular beleaguered assistant to the world's suckiest boss, Nicolas Cage's Dracula, in Universal's Renfield, which opens April 14. In the meantime, you can enjoy his undead antics in Warm Bodies, now streaming on Peacock.