A year ago I wrote about the adaptation of Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies, a YA novel about a zombie who falls in love and rediscovers his humanity along the way. At the time, I noted, “it has the chance to appeal to a broader audience [than Twilight] because the romance isn’t the main focus of the story. Or at least, it shouldn’t be.”
Well I take that back. Not the part about appealing to a broader audience than Twilight’s—a comparison borne of the first Twilight-esque promotional image and also sharing producers from Summit—because that part stands, but the part about the romance not being the focus. The first trailer arrived late last week and I finally got around to watching and Warm Bodies is the zombie rom-com you never knew you wanted.
It’s funny! Like, legit funny. T, a big fan of the book, was complaining over the weekend that she hated the trailer because it’s too funny, and not at all like the book. And no, the tone is not similar to the novel’s, but the decisions they’ve made with the movie seem to be standing up on their own. I watched the trailer three times in a row, kind of disbelieving at the effectiveness of this advertising. It makes Warm Bodies look like an adorable, funny zombie spoof that could be a real crowd pleaser come Valentine’s Day (it’s opening on February 1). It actually—and this feels borderline sacrilegious to say—reminds me strongly of Shaun of the Dead.
The similarity to Twilight that the initial image emphasized is undone by this trailer. Star Teresa Palmer does look uncannily like Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult is a pretty young Brit, not unlike Robert Pattinson, but I don’t think there’s a conspiracy afoot for this to be some type of Twilight burn. I think it’s more evidence of Summit recognizing they’re not going to be able to recreate the zeitgeist of Twilight, and electing to go for a different tone with Warm Bodies. I mean, it’s about a zombie that falls in love. It’s already pretty silly. So not taking it seriously, despite the book’s ambiguous ending (it will be interesting to see how the movie ends, because the book goes on a fairly dark note), might be just the right call. World War Z has gone off-book, too, but in that case it’s to its detriment, making it less interesting and too generic to really be scary. Warm Bodies has taken a concept which may have proven too esoteric for cinematic audiences and turned it into something recognizable—a romantic comedy.
Perhaps the greatest strength of Warm Bodies is its writer/director, Jonathan Levine. He’s young, he’s hip, and with films like The Wackness and 50/50 under his belt, he’s a fast-rising talent. He’s also really good at blending humor and more dire circumstances, so I won’t rule out the book’s darker tone being done away with entirely. And given this winning trailer, the decision to punch up the humor makes a lot of sense. Warm Bodies looks ridiculous in the best sense—funny, spoofy and oddly charming. This just went from one of my biggest question marks to one of my most anticipated films of 2013. OMG I’m watching the trailer again.
(Lainey: Ok but this poster is looking like the Twilight monkey spiders, right???)