Warm Bodies the film took a different approach to appealing to the audience than the book. Most of the plotlines and characters stayed intact, but there are always differences when adapting book to film. Before diving into two particular scenes I would like to focus on the main characters first. The portrayal of R in the film brought out the sensitive side of the character that allowed the audience to develop a brief and simple relationship with R. This relationship allows for the audience to also understand the need for the character of Julie. Continuing with the portrayal of Julie, her character created the bridge for R to express his thoughts to a living person. This is an element of the film that was captured more easily than in the book. Being able to see the emotions on each of their faces lets the audience know what each of the characters see in the others which then creates a stronger connection between R and Julie.
One part of the book that was not in the film was the fact that R was married just before meeting Julie and has two kids. This part of the book was influential in showing the lack of emotion between zombies. R showed a void in his being by constantly finding ways that he is different from his fellow zombies. This lack of connection between zombies and the notion that love is not necessary in the world anymore and the marriage shows as evidence. R’s meeting with his future wife is described with just sight controlling the emotions: “we pass each other again. I grimace and she grimaces back. On our third pass, the airport power dies, and we come to a halt perfectly aligned. I wheeze hello, and she responds with a hunch of her shoulder” (Marion 9). The connection is created through the undeniable sign of a power outage and a sudden meeting. The conveyors show the endless trek of going nowhere since zombies do not seem to have a purpose in life. Also, R’s obsession with learning people’s names shows he desire to learn more about a person and develop a deeper connection. The conflict of the names is explained with: “another one of M’s undead ironies – from nametags to newspapers, the answers to our questions are written all around us, and we don’t know how to read” (Marion 10). Here we see R’s character struggle with something that separates him from others by wanting to be able to identify others and himself.
I understand why this element of the book was not included in the film due to its complexity it shows. The film replaces the wife and children by having two child zombies follow R in the beginning of the film. They watch as he drives with Julie in the car and this shows one side effect of R having children, that he abandons them in pursuit of Julie. He seems to not appreciate the ways of raising the children and his wife also cheated on him thus, solidifying his choice to go with Julie. By watching a movie it is easier for the audience to pick up on R’s differences with his voiceover thoughts and being able to see the emotions of R and Julie.
Another scene that was not included was the ultimate death of General Grigio. The book describes Grigio’s death as: “they fall together, entangled, and Grigio’s body shudders in the air, convulsing. Converting. His remaining flesh peels away in the wind, dry scraps floating up like ashes, leaving the pale bones underneath…” (Marion 226). Grigio’s death and automatic conversion into a Boney shows his unwillingness to accept that zombies can change, that Julie and R’s connection is the answer to the plague. This isn’t completely about love, it is about fighting not only for survival but for change, an actual connection between the living and the dead.
By not having Grigio die in the film does allow for a happier ending, but I feel it also allows for an influential person in the fight against zombies to publicly take a chance on this cure for zombies. The movie has a more direct salute to the idea that zombies are capable of change. When looking at the audience we can relate that the lack of Grigio’s death could create a “happy ending” which has its benefits to the audience. “A good zombie movie with a happy ending tends to have humans overcoming their petty differences and banding together to quell the unstoppable tide of the undead. In the real world, those Hollywood-style dramas often play out on the international stage” (Gannon 1). This is precisely what happened in the end of Warm Bodies where the living overcame the perceptions of zombies and banded together to fight the real enemy, a Boney.
Warm Bodies is an example of a narrative adaptation to cinema that made changes to tell a story that would be understood and with clear lessons of humanity.
Gannon, Megan. “Diagnosis Zombie: The Science Behind the Undead Apocalypse” Livescience.com 8 Aug 2013. Web.
Marion, Isaac. Warm Bodies: A Novel. Atria, 2011.