John Malkovich – Warm Bodies

February 5, 2013 by  
Filed under Interviews

In “Warm Bodies,” a self-aware zombie named R saves a human girl named Julie from certain death, falling in love with her in the process. The fate of the human race hangs in the balance based on whether or not the two of them can convince Julie’s father, the gruff General Grigio, played by the eternally-quirky John Malkovich, of R’s change of heart. I had a chance to speak with Malkovich last week, when he talked about the current popularity of zombie fiction, acting opposite CGI zombies, and the modern-day zombies smartphones may have created.

Zombie fiction is huge right now. Are you a fan or is it something you don’t pay attention to?

I don’t pay the slightest attention to it. (Laughs) One of many things I don’t pay the slightest attention to.

Are you a fan of any supernatural fiction at all? Or is that a genre you completely avoid?

It’s not so much avoidance, its just really not on my radar, generally. This book [“Warm Bodies” by Isaac Marion] was an interesting story since it kind of went out of the normal publishing circles and it was written by a young person. And I liked the tone and thought it would be interesting and challenging to try and capture. But no, I never—even as a kid—I didn’t follow much supernatural…probably didn’t go further than Ray Bradbury, maybe.

You mentioned the book. Did you read the novel beforehand?

I did. But not before I was involved with the film.

It has a huge youth following.

Mmm-hmm. And, in fact, I think my producing partners probably read it as something for us—our company is called Mr. Mudd—something for us to produce. Because they seemed to know it quite well.

Near the beginning, the film touches on the isolation caused by modern technology like smartphones, Twitter, and Facebook. Are you constantly connected in that way?

I really can’t afford to stay away from it because, you know, when I’m here just doing [press for a film], I’m having to deal with something in the fashion business I work in. I’m having to deal with the production of a French play, getting the financing to bring it to London. I’m having to deal with setting this [interview] up. I’m having to deal with the cuts of two movies we have in post-production now. There’s a lot you have to deal with. But I don’t do Facebook or Twitter, but certainly for emails and text I kinda have to.

You aren’t typically known for appearing in films with lots of special effects. Does acting opposite armies of computer-generated zombies take some getting used to or is it just like any other acting job?

I think it’s just like any other acting job. It has its irritations, sure, but in acting you’re always pretending. And you can either pretend or you can’t. And pretending with someone else…yeah, it’s probably easier in some ways, but still, in the end, you have to pretend by yourself. You have to be capable of suspension of your own disbelief anyway. And they generally explain quite clearly what it will be, what it will look like, what it will do. And I don’t find it so difficult.

Warm Bodies

February 1, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich
Directed by: Jonathan Levine (“50/50”)
Written by: Jonathan Levine (“50/50”)

Zombie movie purists beware. “Warm Bodies” will make your head explode.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Unique twists to the sometime tired genre are always welcomed. There are only so many underlying political issues George A. Romero can cover before things start to feel repetitious. So, when original zombie ideas like “Warm Bodies” rear their ugly heads, you can’t help but take a bite.

In the last decade, we’ve seen a masterpiece like “Shaun of the Dead” and solid comedies like “Zombieland” and “Fido.” These kinds of movies can be done and done very well. Unfortunately, “Warm Bodies” doesn’t rise past its quirky synopsis. It’s a zombie romantic comedy (zom rom com) at a loss for believable plot devices and consistent laughs.

The film follows a zombie named R (Nicholas Hoult), a somewhat self-aware young zombie male who isn’t really feeling his new lifestyle now that the world has ended by way of zombie apocalypse. His emo-esque internal monologue conveys his desire to connect with people again and express himself. A zombie, however, isn’t much of a conversationalist.

Things begin to change for R when he meets Julie (Teresa Palmer), a survivor who is ambushed by the undead during a mission to find medicine for the other humans living in a safe concrete compound. During the attack, R saves Julie and somehow persuades her through his moaning and grunting that she would be better off escaping with him instead of doing what any sane person would do and run away.

These are the kind of lazy plot holes that plague “Warm Bodies.” Although they allow the narrative to move forward, some of the script choices simply don’t make any sense. Why doesn’t Julie drive away in the car available to her at any point of the movie? Why can some zombies smell human flesh and others can’t? Why do some zombies run like the dickens and others move in slow-mo? “Warm Bodies” is bold in making up its own rules, but it should be labeled a cheater when it changes those same rules so the story can proceed.

The most shameful disregard for the screenplay comes with the fact that during R and Julie’s time together, R begins to change back into a human. Sure, that’s probably plausible in zombie world, but why do the other zombies who are unaffected by Julie in any way also begin to transform? Unless director/writer Jonathan Levine (“50/50”) is trying to make a point by saying that love, too, is infectious, it doesn’t add up.

While there are a few chuckle-worthy scenes between R and his best zombie friend M (Rob Corddry), “Warm Bodies” is more smart-alecky than it is smart. The combination of horror, romance and comedy might be less of an acquired taste than it was a few years ago, but this kind of fleshy meal just isn’t very appetizing without more substance. Brains, perhaps?