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Warm Bodies (2013)

Lionsgate
4K UHD Released: 10/3/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/12/2017

When a movie sub-genre becomes hot, it's inevitable that it's going to run its course, even if filmmakers refuse to acknowledge this. Once the redundant movies reach a certain point, someone with some creativity will often swoop in and do something a little different in order to shake things up. Sometimes a gesture like this can go unnoticed, but at other times, it can really create a change. By 2013, the zombie genre was done to death (pun intended). Movies featuring shambling hordes hunting humans had become ubiquitous, especially on home video, and nothing new was coming down the pike. Warm Bodies took this category and added the seemingly simple notion of romance to the mix, resulting in a clever film that certainly changed things.

Warm Bodies is set in a world with a zombie plague has changed humanity forever. The human survivors live behind a massive wall in a city, and only venture out occasionally to get supplies. Wandering the wasteland outside of the wall is "R" (Nicholas Hoult), a zombie who, through voiceover, gives us an overview of his world, describing the loneliness of being a zombie and focusing on how much he misses the past that he really can't remember. One day, "R" and a group of other zombies go looking for food (read: human flesh) at the same time that a group of humans have left the confines of the wall to seek medical supplies. "R"'s group runs into the humans and a battle ensues. In the midst of this carnage, "R" sees Julie (Teresa Palmer) and he immediately feels something for her. He spirits her away to his home (an abandoned airplane), where Julie cowers in fear. But, soon, the two begin to understand one another and Julie begins to believe that the world can be changed.

When Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead remake appeared in 2004, it was a shot of adrenaline to the zombie genre and kicked the ensuing wave of living dead movies, TV shows, and video games into high gear. However, it didn't take long for things to get very tedious, as we were hit with wave after wave of movies which featured a zombie apocalypse and a group of arguing humans who were generally trapped in one location. As the originality of these projects begin to decrease and the amount of CG blood increased, I turned away from these movies. However, in the same year that Dawn of the Dead was released, a little movie called Shaun of the Dead also premiered. Despite the fact that it too was there at the beginning of the zombie renaissance, it showed that clever writing and a sense of humor could actually inject new life into a stale genre.

And that's where Warm Bodies comes in. Based on a novel by Isaac Marion, the movie plops us down in the middle of a world which looks like another zombie apocalypse movie. (Except that thanks to a relatively high budget and some creative production design, this looks much better than the also-rans out there.) From the outset, "R"'s voiceover lets us know that this movie is going to be different, as we are presented with a zombie with existential angst. But, it also doesn't take long for us to get some quasi-graphic violence, reminding us that we are in a zombie film. However, the first act presents us with the detail which makes this film stand out -- it's a love story. When "R" sees Julie, he's immediately taken with her. This is only compounded by the fact that he eats her boyfriend's brains, which grants him access to that person's memories and emotions. Thus begins an odd courtship in which "R" tries to get Julie to understand him and she discovers that there is a world outside of the wall.

Handled incorrectly, all of this could have simply come off as silly, but Writer/Director Jonathan Levine somehow strikes the perfect balance here. "R" clearly comes from a world of the undead, and it's a world in which Julie has been raised. But, meeting him allows her to get in touch with the fact that she's also a young woman who wants to enjoy the simple things in life. As we watch this couple get to know one another, the movie is actually able to generate suspense, as we not only want to see them be together, as one would with a romantic film, but we want to see them survive and change the world as well. Hardcore gore zombie-movie fans most likely won't dig Warm Bodies, as this is not what this movie is. There's some action and the "Bonies" are certainly creepy, but at its heart, this is a very clever take on Romeo & Juliet which makes great use of the zombie metaphor, while presenting some laughs and touching moments along the way.

Warm Bodies is scariest when John Malkovich is on screen on 4K UHD courtesy of Lionsgate. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a HEVC 2160p transfer which runs at an average of 75 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, but we do get some very mild grain here. The colors look good, most notably reds, but the picture is also slightly dark at times. The image presents nice depth and delivers a good level of detail. Overall, this is crisper than the previous Blu-ray Disc release, but it's not huge leap in quality. The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo and surround effects abound during the action sequences and we are treated to some nicely detailed audio from the rear channels. The subwoofer effects are also impressive, as they punctuate the shootouts.

The Warm Bodies 4K UHD contains a shocking amount of extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Jonathan Levine, Nicholas Hoult, and Teresa Palmer. "Boy Meets, Er, Doesn't Eat Girl" (10 minutes) focuses on the origin of the film, including interviews with Author Isaac Marion, and the producers who discuss the journey of the book from the page to screen. "R & J" (16 minutes) places the emphasis on the romantic angle of the story. Through interviews with the cast and filmmakers, we get a view on what it was like to make a love story where one of these characters is dead. "A Little Less Dead" (17 minutes) delivers an overall look at the cast, allowing the actors to talk about their involvement with the film. We get a look at the designs of the zombies and the special effects makeup in "Extreme Zombie Make-Over!" (10 minutes). "A Wreck in Progress" (15 minutes) shows us the work involved in finding the locations and creating the look of the world. "Bustin' Caps" (10 minutes) examines the stunts and gunplay which the actors had to endure. We get a look at the effects used for the bad guys in "Beware the Boneys" (7 minutes). "Whimsical Sweetness: Teresa Palmer's Warm Bodies Home Movies" (13 minutes) takes us on-set to see how the actress documented the production. "Zombie Acting Tips with Rob Corddry" (5 minutes) is a segment from a Screen Junkies show. The Disc contains nine DELETED SCENES which run about 11 minutes and can be viewed with optional commentary. The "Shrug & Groan Gag Reel" (5 minutes) shows the lighter side of filming. The final extra is a TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long