So, this past Friday was the opening night of Warm Bodies, our first LitFlix of 2013. Initially the previews leading up to the release date made me think that they had removed some potentially crucial pieces from the book. I still saw how they could have pulled it off in the movie and was interested to see how they did it. Before I saw the movie I read the spoiler-heavy io9 review (http://io9.com/5980780/warm-bodies-is-something-way-better-than-just-romeo-and-juliet-and-zombies) that made me realize that the movie was probably going to be more like the book than I initially thought.
Having now read the book AND watched the movie, I can say they did a pretty good job of sticking to the source material, while still making it understandable in a different medium. There are still quite a few things that were changed in the movie, but I appreciate and can understand why these changes were made. (SPOILERS for both the book and movie Warm Bodies after the jump.)
Following the Source Material (Similarities)
The start of the movie perfectly brings to life the character of R. The book is told from his perspective so as readers we are constantly seeing his thoughts and experiencing the tale how he experiences it. The use of the voice-over for R works well to show a zombie in turmoil, but then when he actually tries to speak he cannot get many words out.
In the movie I think the progression of R talking more and being able to use more words was even more intuitive than in the book. In the book R tells the reader when he says something that was more syllables than he had ever said before, but the fact is still that as he changes he does not have to be in his head quite as much.
The biggest surprise which they never showed or explained in the preview (which is actually kind of nice because previews tend to give too much away) was that zombies eat the brains because it is the only way they can really live again. Their dead bodies are striving for that little spark of life to remember what it was like to feel. I do have to say, the brain eating was much easier to read than to see, but is pretty crucial to the story. It is Perry’s memories and his love for Julie that is part of what jumpstarts the change that R starts to experience.
Probably one of the things that I loved was the heavy use of music in the movie. In the book R’s collection of music is a huge deal because, as Julie explains, things like music and art have been thrown to the wayside in the eyes of survival. In the human settlement it can actually be really hard to find music and here is R with an amazing record collection. I think using the music as a humorous storytelling was nice because it subtly reiterated the life and energy that music has.
These are just a few of the areas where similarities were found, but the bigger point, for me, was that the spirit of the book is alive in the movie. It is difficult to take a book and turn it into a movie. There are so many things you often have to change due to time or simply because of the difference in the mediums. When you can keep the soul of the story alive it can be so amazing to see a book come to life.
The movie Warm Bodies artfully conveys the points that we learn in the book. One place this is noted is in the first four minutes [link to our trailer watch post] when R is thinking about how it must have been so much better before the zombie apocalypse. They flashback to the airport bustling with people and as R is talking about connecting with another human being everyone is on their cell phones and electronic devices ignoring the people right next to them. If we stop connecting with each other on a basic human level are we not already zombies just going through the motions of living?
Divergent Artforms (Differences)
So, if you cannot already tell, I loved Warm Bodies, book and movie both. There are so many more small similarities that I could mention, but it would take too long. So now we are moving on to where, for whatever reason, the director and producers decide to differ from the book. Now there were some small things, such as R and M did not meet at a bar, but at a Starbucks, the food that Julie ate was Pad Thai not canned fruit, R wore a suit not a red hoody and jeans, etc. Then there were some big changes, that in the book were particularly compelling.
One of the big changes was that the zombies had a full community that they built at the airport. The Boneys were not just mindless killing machines. They were believed to be zombies who basically threw off the last shred of their humanity to become what they were. Nobody knew where they came from, but they were the leaders in the zombie community.
One of the more interesting moments at the beginning of the book is that R meets a girl zombie and they hold hands and go to “church”. R is not particularly religious, but he goes with the girl. The Boneys lead the service in jilted, slightly incomprehensible speech. At a point in the service R and the female zombie have their hands joined and they become married. They are then assigned children zombies to look after because they cannot take care of themselves. During the rest of the service the zombie patrons are holding their hands up like they would if it was really church. It makes a stark impact on the zombies trying to go through the motions of living, but having none of the emotions.
R at one point finds his zombie wife naked with another zombie rubbing up against each other simulating sex. R wishes he could care or feel something about it, but he doesn’t because he can’t. It is not until Julie comes along and he eats Perry’s brain that he starts to feel anything. The problem with the Boneys comes from the fact that they have given up their humanity and strictly believe that zombies kill humans, humans kill zombies that is all there is. R defies them by bringing a human into the zombie community and does not kill her.
This actually causes a revolution in the zombies who start to question why things are the way they are. The Boneys end up attacking and actually killing other zombies who try to leave the community. They see R and Julie as an infection that is spreading that must be eradicated from the source.
I understand why they did not add this in for time purposes, because trying to show a whole zombie society that is still going through the motion of trying to be human is a lot to explain. If you do read the book, there are interesting parallels that can be found between the human community and the zombie community. Julie, at one point in the book, even questions who is really alive at this point because of how things are controlled in the human city.
There are a lot of other smaller changes that they made for time, but one of the changes that they made that was kind of disappointing was the power of hope. In the book Julie is an optimist, she can see the good in almost anything, and believes that there is a brighter future for the world. In the book Perry and her Dad had lost that hope, but Julie knew that the only way to live was hope.
This is part of the LitFlix series. To find out more about LitFlix for this year go here. The above images were found at http://spinoff.comicbookresources.com and http://www.freepresshouston.com.