When it comes to comparing a book to its movie adaptation, more often than not the book wins hands down. This is generally because it can be difficult to make a screen adaptation that truly does the book justice.
Having said that, Warm Bodies (2013) has its own merits.
Although it’s very close to the book, the overall tone of the story on screen is very different from the book. The movie incorporates humour where in the book this isn’t really apparent. For example, some of the narration, which is made up of R’s thoughts, is really quite funny. His thoughts are basically those of a teenager with a crush, “Oh no. Stop staring. You’re acting weird again” […] “This date isn’t going well. I want to die all over again”.
From the perspective of the book, the story is that of a tragic romance. The movie goes beyond this and makes everything a little bit more light-hearted (mainly with the use of humour here and there), not that the book is particularly dark. In all probability, adding humour on screen makes the movie more appealing, but it works well.
The book, which is Isaac Marion’s first novel, is a modern-day take on Romeo and Juliette but with zombies. The story is told from the perspective of the main character, R, who is a zombie. Interestingly, up until recently, zombie stories have been told from the viewpoint of the people, the survivors. Zombies are normally portrayed as being nothing more than the re-animated dead. However, Marion’s stance is to give the zombies a face, a personality, a life. Like many of the recent dark fantasy stories to hit our screens, Warm Bodies centres on R and his relationship with a living “human” girl, Julie. This relationship sparks a revolution that turns the tide of the war completely.
Marion’s post-apocalyptic world sees humans living in large stadium cities, surrounded by enormous concrete walls, loaded with security. The zombies are left to occupy the remainder of the world and we are taken to the nearest airport, where R resides. Right from the get go, R seems to be different. He has coherent thoughts and we are presented with his inner turmoil almost immediately, e.g. “But it does make me sad that we’ve forgotten our names. Out of everything, this seems to me the most tragic. I miss my own and I mourn for everyone else’s”. Straight away the reader can identify with him as being a person and not just a monster.
The movie is as easy to watch as the book is to read. The scene we are set is one of a dull, grey and lifeless world. The cinematography is spot on in capturing the tone of the book. Quite literally, the sun has no place here.
The performance from the actors is good enough for the story. It requires little emotional expression from the main star Nicholas Hoult (R) and with Teresa Palmer (The Grudge 2 2006, Bedtime Stories 2008) as Julie, the scenes flow well and the characters are believable.
Julie is introduced very early on in the story and it’s easy to see where the tale is going.
R comes across Julie and a group of her friends including Perry, her boyfriend. Being a Zombie, R eats Perry’s brain and gains all of his memories. This sparks something inside him, and he spares Julie, who inevitably discovers that he was the one who killed Perry.
Marion’s writing style makes for a very quick and easy read while setting the scene impeccably. Every step along R’s journey is clear and when he joins forces with Julie everything starts to change. The dead aren’t just walking corpses anymore.
Marion’s characters are noticeably stronger than they appear on screen, especially Julie’s father who Marion describes almost as being a tyrant who has been worn down by war so much he can no longer make reasonable and just decisions. This inevitably leads to his death; however, on screen he has a quick change of heart and very easily accepts the situation. This is one of the weaker parts of the movie. As the military leader, you would expect far more resistance and strength in his resolve.
As book adaptations go Warm Bodies (2013) captures Marion’s story well. As with any movie based on a novel, certain things are lost in translation, however in this instance it works in favour for the overall tone of the movie.
By Chantelle Kearton