Sunday, 10 February 2013

Warm Bodies: Book vs Film

Isaac Marion's Warm Bodies quite consciously does not fit into any neat genre box. It is both dark and fun, romantic and twisted, silly and serious. Yet in Marion's capable hands, the story never feels disjointed and flows just as richly as the blood from those being devoured by the zombies. In so many ways, Marion's tale is filled with brains.

The story follows a chance encounter between zombie 'R' and human Julie. When R goes on a hunger run with some of his fellow zombies, he is instantly drawn to Julie and feels the need to protect, not eat her. What follows is the development of the relationship between the two, as R tries to become more human and Julie realises that the 'dead' are not as dead as she first thought. It pays close attention to the elements of connection and interaction that makes us feel alive.

The book, though often romantic and fun, is set against an immensely dark backdrop where humans have been forced into compounds in order to survive the zombie epidemic that has taken over the world. It raises a lot of questions about the shifting priorities in this dystopian future and the conflict between surviving and really living.

The film adaptation, directed by Jonathan Levine, manages to remain quite faithful to the original text and has two incredible actors playing R (Nicholas Hoult) and Julie (Teresa Palmer). What Hoult manages to capture with such little dialogue is nothing short of miraculous. It is unsurprising then that Palmer's Julie falls for him. Hoult has arguably the most expressive eyes seen on screen for years, conveying so much depth with a shrug or a glance. His inner monologue helps, of course, and keeping his narrative was a genius move on the part of the filmmakers. Palmer, in turn, rises to leading lady with class, bringing the hardened edge to Julie that the role requires as well as the intense vulnerability. She is incredibly brave and daring, as much when facing the zombies as when she faces her terrifyingly rigid father - who just so happens to be the general of her compound.

The combination of peril, action, romance and comedy is there in the film, just as it is in the book. The only real difference to the feel of the story is that it is far more heavily weighted on the romance. This, though, is a forgivable shift as the romance itself is so brilliantly original, it still brings something new to the table. 

Another brilliant element to the novel that has found its way into the film is the author's great use of music. In the novel, when R cannot say what he wants to, he uses music to say it for him, often playing Julie records that reveal his true feelings. In the film, this happens to great effect and is mixed with a sublime soundtrack that blends some classic tunes from recent decades which serve to enhance the nostalgic elements of the story.

Overall, the tone of the book has been softened for cinema audiences. A lot of what made the book so devilishly dark has been glossed over or ignored entirely and the ending is all just a little bit 'nice'. However, the heart of the book remains, thanks to the same careful character focus Levine showed in 50/50 and the beautifully emotive leads.  

While the book has a real crossover feel to it - because it never feels like a young adult novel despite the youth of the two leads - the film does seem to have more of a teen audience in mind. However, the plot is so clever and witty that it will appeal to anyone looking for something a bit new and different. Twilight, this is NOT.

Book - 4.5/5 FOBLES
Film - 4/5 FOBLES

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