Film Adaptation: WARM BODIES
I always try not to get my hopes up too much about movies, but there’s no denying I was really excited to see Warm Bodies! Last week I reviewed the novel by Isaac Marion, (check out my review here), where I mentioned that the previews gave me the wrong impression about the book. Well, it did the same for the movie. It was pitched as a comedy (romantic comedy, actually), and it had its moments, but it was not nearly as funny as I’d been hoping, which would be okay if it’d been better. Sadly, all the funny bits were pretty much in the trailer. I was hoping for something on par with Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead, but it fell short of those marks. It should have appealed to zombie fans, instead it targeted Twihards. That’s not to say men can’t enjoy the movie, just that many might not bother.
Like Twilight, Summit Entertainment produced Warm Bodies. Summit is also responsible for the hit franchise, The Hunger Games. It has no doubt become their model to find book series with huge followings and adapt them into film. They do a great job with marketing, and Warm Bodies is no exception. They put out cute memes every week, (quotes, love song lyrics, etc) geared mostly toward the romance in the story. This type of marketing has proven effective for Twilight and Hunger Games, so that makes me think, who’s the target audience? It looks like female teenagers.
Problem with that? The book wasn’t meant for teenagers, and honestly it wasn’t even meant for girls. The book is male across the board. Yet, it felt like the writer/director Jonathan Levine was trying his best to cater his film to the Twilight crowd, downplaying the masculinity, violence, and gore in favor of a too-peppy female lead and a sappy sweet romance that was much more organic in the book. It’s as if he tried to make it “cute,” a typical teen-romance even though the characters are grown. And perhaps that’s what Summit asked him to do. Still, I think it was a bad choice to have Levine write the script himself when his writing creds are weak. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a good director. (Remember 50/50? That’s the guy, but he didn’t write that.)
In addition to my qualms with the demographic, I had issues with the story itself. The director failed to capture the heart of the book. Perhaps he thought he was making subtle changes, when he actually left the movie feeling empty. The only way I can really describe how it made me feel is ‘underwhelmed.’
There were a lot of places where the movie strayed, and some of it was so essential in the book, I just couldn’t agree with the director’s choices. He changed a lot of settings, probably to make them easier to film—no big deal. But a very key character’s death simply did not occur in the film. Did he chicken out? It seems Levine wanted to make the movie light-hearted when the book was very dark. It was gritty. It was real. The movie was fluffy, hate to say it. Again, probably because of his target audience.
The characters all seemed to fall flat, and while I found Julie unlikable for her harsh bitterness in the book, she was the opposite in the movie—too sweet, too peppy. I wanted her grittier. Actually, so little was revealed about any of the characters that by the time they were all in danger, it was hard to care.
Now, for the kicker. I’ll call it the ‘anti-climax,’ because I found that place in the film undeserving of the term ‘climax.’ Everything builds to a big moment that just doesn’t happen. Instead of the fight that should have taken place, (don’t want to ruin it) everything just works out. Rainbows and butterflies. Bleck!
The only saving grace was actor Nicholas Hoult, who played the lead character. I was quite pleased with his portrayal of R and the tone of his voiceovers. While Theresa Palmer did fine as Julie, I felt they had it all wrong in casting John Malkovich as Julie’s dad, Grigio. Someone like Will Patton is what I pictured. Someone a little more severe and serious.
I mentioned in my review of the book that it felt slow, and even though the film was brief and left out so much, even it felt slow. It was only an hour and thirty-eight minutes. They could have afforded to keep some of the more important parts and perhaps take a minute or two to explain them instead of just cutting them altogether. The film was at best a skeleton of the story. I wanted the meat! I wanted danger, and I wanted more comedy. I wanted a bigger fight in the end. I just wanted more.
I completely understand the difficulty in adapting this type of book. In order to stay “true,” the movie would’ve had voiceovers the entire time, because what R is thinking is what made the book so funny, clever, and special. But constant voiceovers is generally thought to be bad filmmaking, because film is supposed to be primarily visual. I respect the fact that it was no easy task for writer/director Levine, so I hate to be so harsh. Really, I do. What makes this so difficult to review is that it wasn’t terrible, or even bad, and it wasn’t awesome. It was just… blah/okay.
So, overall? It was good-ish. Perhaps 3 out of 5 stars, maybe 3.5 since I’m a fan. Worth the watch? Sure. Live up to my hopes? Not really.