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World Warm BodieZ: Is There Anything New Left To Say With The Zombie Movie?

by Kevin Jagernauth
November 9, 2012 10:04 AM
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Warm Bodies World War Z

Ever since the undead first lurched around George A. Romero's "Night Of The Living Dead," audiences have been captivated by zombies. They've entered nearly every pop culture sphere, hunting for brains at the movies, on television, in books, graphic novels, comics and more, and in 2013 they are invading the multiplex once again. Yesterday saw trailers arrive for two zombie flicks, the smaller budget "Warm Bodies" (watch here) from director Jonathan Levine, and the blockbuster "World War Z" (watch here) starring Brad Pitt. But the question is: does the zombie movie have anything new to say?

On the plus side, while I thought it looked a bit silly, the general consensus seems to be that "Warm Bodies" does have some promise. And it does boast an original concept. Based on the book by Isaac Marion, the story centers on R (Nicholas Hoult), a morally conflicted zombie who falls in love with the human Julie (Teresa Palmer). While we've seen the zombie comedy before (in the exceptional "Shaun Of The Dead" and "Zombieland"), we can't recall there ever being a zom-rom-com, and there have certainly been few popular pictures that look to humanize the undead rather than treating them as faceless antagonists.

Speaking of which, that's what makes "World War Z" so underwhelming. Borrowing the fast moving zombie trope utilized (as far as we can tell for now) much better in the "28 Days Later" movies, this just looks like a far more expensive version of a movie we've seen numerous times already, just with a lot more cut and paste CGI creatures with no defining characteristics. The Brad Pitt flick presents yet another generic apocalyptic premise, but we're yet to see what will make this particular story unique or compelling.

And ultimately, that's what the genre hinges on to creatively and effectively move forward. No matter what your feelings are on "The Walking Dead," audiences are watching the show in huge numbers. The premiere of this season was the biggest non-reality show in the key 18-49 demographic, beating the popular "Modern Family," which, given that the latter is on basic cable and thus more widely available, is a pretty massive debut. 

As we noted in a feature last year, Hollywood is hardly finished with zombies. There are a staggering number of zombie movies in development, all with their unique twists and gimmicks to shake things up. But as always, if the characters and story are there, the rest will follow naturally. There is no doubt that Hollywood will be waiting to see what audiences think of "Warm Bodies" and "World War Z" as they move their projects along, but what do you think? Is the zombie genre dead? Where should it go next? Weigh in below.

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  • Rhiannon | November 12, 2012 5:30 AMReply

    I completely agree with everything you said. I was thinking the same thing as I watched both trailers. WWZ is such a shame as it was such a good concept in the orginal book. Warm bodies reminds of "breathers" which is also another zombie-rom-com in production with Joseph Gordon-Levitt set to take on the lead role. I'll be interested to see what the reaction auidences will have towards Wamr Bodies and if that will help push other non-horror zombie flicks. Jake I think Kevin was refering to the first 'Romero Zombie' the shuffling horde of death, not the first zombie film ever (Which is White Zombie, 1932).

  • daniel | November 9, 2012 12:51 PMReply

    Yep! This!

  • Sky | November 9, 2012 11:27 AMReply

    What about the rom-com-with-a-zombie "My Boyfriend's back", 1993?

  • Jake | November 9, 2012 11:06 AMReply

    What on earth makes you say that Night of the Living Dead was the first movie about the rise of the undead??

  • Edward Davis | November 9, 2012 10:23 AMReply

    interesting to note is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies that Lionsgate would never figure out and then eventually nixed. It would have likely been the first humanizing-zombies movie had it followed a proper timetable. I think it says a lot that LG basically gave up on it. Though I'm sure its in development. I bet if Warm Bodies is a hit, you'll here more about that film, including Breathers too (the Diablo Cody-produced similar zombie project) and if it tanks you'll never hear from each of them ever again.

  • Ryan Gowland | November 9, 2012 11:06 AM

    The David O. Russell script for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was really good. He left because LG wouldn't lift the budget. I imagine that the same unwavering attitude followed when Craig Gillespie took over, perhaps with the stipulation that the only way they would raise the budget would be if a "name" actor was attached, which Gillespie could not pull off.

    If World War Z manages to become a trilogy, it could pull off something new as it would show the world figuring out how to end the zombie outbreak. And when a zombie can run as fast as Usain Bolt, that's not going to be easy. Especially when they cluster together like a wave at Mavericks. Also, zombies don't run. Just saying.

    Furthermore, Day of the Dead was likely first to take a humanized look at zombies. Romero also did a comic book called Toe Tags which had zombies relearning how to talk and forming tribes to take over parts of the world while a zombie who has retained his free will (thanks to science and an incredible serum) is the only one who could stop the undead army.

    Other than that, if you're looking for a zombie movie to say something new about zombies, you're not looking for the right movie. A good zombie movie has something to say about how we would react in the midst of it all, not finding a way to make CGI zombies climb a wall.

  • hg | November 9, 2012 10:10 AMReply

    wait till marvel does marvel zombies lol

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