Sunday, June 7, 2015

Wherefore art thou, Zombie-o?

Mild Warm Bodies spoilers to follow. 

I liked Warm Bodies at least ten percent less on my second viewing than when I saw it the first time, meaning it can (and probably should) drop a half-star from my initial lofty 4.5-star rating.

Ironically, I also found it ten percent more clever than the first time.

That's in part because I can be dumb sometimes.

I loved Warm Bodies, ranking it #12 for the year in 2013, even without realizing that it's based loosely on Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet.

I suppose it might have been obvious if I had been looking a bit more closely. The protagonist (pictured here, played by Nicholas Hoult) is a zombie who's called R, because he can't remember his full first name. (And it's never revealed, in fact, though I could have sworn that it was.) That would have been a tipoff. The fact that the girl he falls for is named Julie (played by Teresa Palmer) might have been a second clue. Then there's the broader fact that any work of art featuring "star-cross'd lovers" can be thought of as taking inspiration from Romeo & Juliet, and a zombie and a human -- mortal enemies on most occasions -- are as Montaguelike and Capuletesque as you could want.

But the scene that really clicked it home for me is when R risks everything by trying to pass for human in the walled human city, and comes to the garden below Julie's balcony to speak to her. How anyone could see a boy talking to a girl in a balcony and not think of Romeo & Juliet is beyond me, but that was me two years ago when I first saw this movie.

Saw it and fell in love with it, as I said.

Imagine how ga-ga I would have been if I could have also detected the Shakespeare homage. Not only is there the stuff I've already mentioned, but there's also a symbolic double suicide (which ends a bit happier for these characters than those in the play) and even a scene where the zombie Romeo kills his rival, as Romeo kills Paris in the text. Instead, I had to get that homage only on a second viewing when the rest of Warm Bodies left me a bit more cold, so to speak, than it had the first time.

It's still a movie with a surprising amount of heart and soul, but this time it connected with me less emotionally even as it connected with me more intellectually. I guess we can see which type of connection I value more.

I wonder in retrospect if this was Hoult's de facto audition for Mad Max: Fury Road. I mean, it proved he could play a pale-skinned, sickly looking guy desiccated of most of his blood.

Attitude's a bit different, though.

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