If You’re Warm, Then You Can’t Relate To Me

Warm Bodies movie posterAh, the zombie apocalypse.  It has become its own genre in American pop culture.  How many books and films have been written and produced about people trying to survive in a post-zombie-apocalyptic world?  Countless stories have been told, most of them dramatic, many action-packed, some with social statements woven in and others with comedy interspersed.  Which got me thinking that pretty much everything that could be done with the zombie genre has been done.  And then came along Warm Bodies.  And I realized that just because I couldn’t imagine anything new to bring to the genre, that certainly doesn’t mean that no one else could.

Warm Bodies isn’t all that original a story when compared to, say, any typical romantic comedy.  What sets it apart is that it combines the zombie genre with the romantic comedy genre – two seemingly incompatible kinds of stories – and it does it, somehow, well.  The film is narrated by a fellow whose name, he thinks, begins with the letter R.  Beyond that, he can’t remember.  Because, you see, at some point prior to the beginning of the story, R was bitten and infected and turned into a zombie.  Yes, the zombie apocalypse arrived, infecting millions, killing millions of others and changing the landscape of human society and relationships as we know it.  The initial wave of zombies created by whatever unnamed cause are completely and utterly lost to it, eventually becoming little more than skeletons incapable of any thought or drive beyond hunting and seeking food in the form of human flesh.  But some of the folks who are bitten later, such as our main protagonist R, manage to retain some small hint of cognition, some tiny remnant of their former human selves.  In search of food, R encounters Julie, an uninfected human and daughter of the leader of the community of remaining unscathed survivors.  For reasons he doesn’t understand, he saves Julie from other zombies rather than eating her himself and develops, well, a sort of crush on her.

And here’s the thing.  As a scientist who has studied infectious epidemics, it almost makes sense.  Because there is just the smallest hint of truth in the very basic foundation of it.  You see, the thing that makes a novel infectious agent (virus, bacteria, etc.) so potentially lethal to humans isn’t just related to that particular agent’s ability to cause disease – its newness makes it cause a worse disease.  The reason being that our imperfect bodies have much more trouble fighting off something they’ve never seen before.  Our immune systems are more easily overtaken by a microbe the first time it encounters it.  This has happened throughout history with the influenza virus, smallpox, measles, pertussis (which causes whooping cough) and countless others.  The second and third waves of people to encounter these organisms fare better.  Not that there are no casualties, but they tend to occur in smaller numbers than their predecessors.  Warm Bodies plays on this phenomenon to create a particular kind of zombie – the kind that isn’t entirely overtaken by whatever virus or pathogen led to its becoming a zombie.  The first wave of people to become infected with the zombie disease is ruined by it.  They lose every shred of their humanity, all memory, their capacity for emotion and any instinct other than hunger.  After some unspecified length of time, newly infected people, while still turning into flesh-eating zombies, form a bit of resistance.  They retain the minutest amount of cognitive thought and can even mutter monosyllabic words.  This resistance is encouraged by emotion (love, especially) and has the potential to “cure” the zombie of its being a zombie and return it to a human state of being.

Author Isaac Marion wrote the book on which screenwriter/director Jonathan Levine based the movie and though I haven’t read the novel, I have heard that the meat of the story is the same.  The flick is silly and light-hearted, not to be taken too seriously, and for the most part, it Nicholas Houltworks, at least in part due to the performances from its two lead actors, Nicholas Hoult as the zombie, R, and Teresa Palmer as the girl who inspires his heart to beat again, Julie.  Hoult and Palmer play their respective roles with surprising charm and their chemistry together really sells it, making it almost believable that the spark between them is powerful enough to triumph over the zombie plague.  John Malkovich adequately plays the part of Julie’s father and leader of the small army of remaining people trying to salvage what they can of the pre-zombie world, and Rob Corddry, who plays M, a kind of friend of R’s who is inspired by the bond that develops between R and Julie, is delightfully funny.  Dave Franco and Analeigh Tipton also offer charming side characters who get more than a few laughs.

What makes Warm Bodies even easier to enjoy is the certain fact that it never takes itself too seriously.  There are sober, heartfelt moments that touch places of real emotion but the film doesn’t try too hard to make you cry.  Neither does it make any attempt at social commentary or satire, nor aspire to be an outright comedy.  Instead, it is a thoroughly enjoyable and harmonious blend of love story and light comedy that just happens to be set against the backdrop of the zombie plague.

Can’t wait to see what else they can do with this genre.

~Nikki

Made To Suffer

All right.  Here it is: I like The Walking Dead.  Really, I do.  But every episode is a bit of a struggle for me.  For every five awesome things about it, there is at least one bad thing.  Like, one seriously bad thing.  And lately, the best and worst things all have to do with Michonne.

First, the good things: the feeling of unity in this episode is stronger than it has ever been.  The group pulling together to rescue Glenn and Maggie and Rick’s sturdy leadership throughoDaryl and Merleut the entire intense, dangerous and desperate mission is outstanding.  They really aren’t just a group of random people bound together for a better chance at survival anymore.  They’ve become a family.  And they will risk it all the save a member.  This is the most solid they’ve been as one unified group and I’ve never loved them more.  Further testament to that was Daryl’s choice to stay and fight with them over seeking out his biological brother, Merle.  In all honesty, I kind of like Merle.  Not his actual character so much as the level of conflict he brings to the show.  He’s a damned good antagonist.  And since Shane died, the show needed another antagonist.  I don’t know how Daryl got caught nor do I have any idea how he’ll liberate himself, but it sure would be interesting if he and Merle both escaped and rejoined the group together.  (Note: Daryl had better escape.  While killing him off would be one ballsy move, my heart just couldn’t take it.)

Back at the prison, the addition of Tyrese and his crew adds some excitement to the mix and allows Carl yet another opportunity to behave like the disillusioned, adept, overly mature man-child he’s become.  All remnants of innocence and childhood are gone from Carl; he’s a seasoned, even burdened, veteran of the zombie apocalypse and he does what he has to with a cold kind of sadness that breaks my jaded heart every f**king time.

And finally, Michonne.  Danai Gurira is a complete and total badass and her fight with The Governor was almost too much to take.  Never before have we seen such a cut-throat, balls out, bloodthirsty battle between two people on The Walking Dead.  These two weren’t just defending themselves.  They weren’t trying to subdue or capture one another.  There was no mercy, no hesitation, no semblance of The Governora conscious in either of them.  This was two people trying their absolute hardest to kill each other.  Period.  The fact that she sat in his office and waited, oh so patiently, for him to return shows a cold, calculated determination within her.  Michonne is more than capable of taking care of herself and of killing anyone and everyone who gets in her way – The Governor included.  But not yet.

Which brings me to the things about this episode that did not work.  First of all, you know she had to have put together that this group of people is most likely the very same group to which Andrea used to belong.  Michonne knew that Merle and Andrea knew each other and then when she saw Merle kidnap Glenn and Maggie, she overheard Merle and Glenn reference their shared past.  A woman as sharp as Michonne would not have neglected to put that together.  Yet, at no point did she ask Rick or any of the others if they knew Andrea.  Are we supposed to believe that it simply never came up?  This is lazy writing, pure and simple.  Along the same lines, after Andrea stops Michonne from killing The Governor, not a word is spoken between them.  Seriously?  Why didn’t she say something?  Anything?  “He tried to kill me.”  “He kidnapped Glenn and Maggie and planned to kill them.”  “I found your friends.”  “He had his f**king zombie daughter locked up in a cubby hole.”  Nope.  Instead, they stare at each other for a few long, pregnant moments and then Michonne leaves, allowing another opportunity to close a rather large communication gap to pass idly by.  I just don’t buy it.  I know she isn’t a talker.  I know she’s dark and cryptic and I love her for it.  But this level of silence borders on absurd.  At least, without explanation, it does.  It’s simply bad writing.  And in a show where we’ve some of the best writing currently on television, there’s just no excuse for it.

Also bugging me these days is Andrea’s complete 180 from last season.  At the close of season 2, she was this whip-smart, strong, independent woman who’d taught herself how to use a gun and practiced until her shot could rival that of any of the men around her.  These days, she’s a lovesick girl who does as she’s told.  Did the severed zombie heads in fish tanks send up any red flags?  It seemed so for a minute, but then she stayed with him.  What about seeiThe Walking Deadng Daryl alive again and captured by her new boyfriend – did that feel wrong to her at all?  If so, she chose to stand by in terror, mouth agape but motionless.  Because that’s always better than taking action.  Who is this broad?  Where is the Andrea we got to know during the past two seasons?  My plea to the writers/producers of the show is to return Andrea to the willful soldier she used to be.

The Walking Dead returns Sunday, February 10, 2013.  You know where I’ll be.

~Nikki

Zombie Fever

If I had to guess at the exact moment I warmed to the whole zombie apocalypse craze sweeping pop culture, I’d say it was immediately after (or maybe during) I’d watched the film 28 Days Later.  Cillian Murphy and Naomie Harris brought depth and dimension to a genre that had previously stuck with one-note characters and Danny Boyle (as usual) unraveled a story that was – at once – about that which elevates humans from the animal kingdom as well as the more savage instincts of man.  Now, the genre has gone pretty much everywhere it has to go.  I’m not saying I’m sick of it, I’m merely observing that there isn’t much more room for growth for the zombie genre.

That is, I did feel that way until I saw the trailer for Warm Bodies.  Check this out:

A romantic comedy about humans turning into zombies then becoming human again (brought on by love, no less)?  Yeah, didn’t see that one coming.  But it looks good.

Allow me also to share with you a trailer for a more serious zombie flick starring Brad Pitt that’s based on a successful novel by Max Brooks.  Word on the street is, World War Z appears to veer quite a bit from the novel of the same name, which isn’t a singular narrative but more like a collection of short stories about separate individuals around the globe, all dealing with the zombie apocalypse.  A global approach has never before been attempted and maybe it isn’t here, either, if the film is simply a loose adaptation.  It does look interesting, though, and the imagery involving swarms of what I assume are zombies climbing walls like insects made a shiver run over my skin.

What’s your favorite zombie movie?

~Nikki