Princess Muse

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Musings on Isaac Marion's 'Warm Bodies'

The elementary school I sub at has an annual "Literature Night."  It's really cool--about 15 groups of people get together, and based on the theme, turn classrooms into little oases of books:  there have been rooms based on Pippi Longstockings, Narnia, Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland and The Magic Tree House, for example.  The kids can go in and do a couple of craft-y activities based on the book, maybe learn a skill, and listen to stories.  

I remember one year, one of the rooms had a "Mysteries" theme, and they had fingerprinting station.  The kids could learn how to dust for and read fingerprints.  Pretty cool, huh?

Okay, I can hear you saying, "That's great, Missy, but what does this have to do with Warm Bodies?  Well, since I didn't have to take pictures this year, my friend Jen and I decided to go to the movies.  We thought of going to see Safe Haven, but ended up seeing Warm Bodies instead.  (We enjoyed the movie--some great soundtrack/visuals moments, so I would recommend going to see it if it's still playing in your area.  Or, just wait for the DVD or for it to be on Netflix.)  Imagine my happiness when I found out that it was originally a book.  Happy, happy, joy, joy!  (Ren and Stimpy live on)

Some of you may be thinking, "But, Missy, if there's a movie, why should I read the book?"  Hello!  The book is almost always better (I'm sure there a few instances in which the movie is better, but they are rare and far between).  If you can a find the book, always read the book.  Even if it's adapted from the screenplay, read the book.  Sometimes, the script the writer is working from has scenes that were eventually edited out of the movie.  Bonus time, baby!

If the movie is adapted from the book, always read the book.  Sometimes, you find that the only thing the movie and the book has in common is the title and the names of the characters. That can be really irritating, but books can afford to appeal to a smaller audience than movies.  It can cost so much to make a movie that they need to appeal to as broad an audience as possible.  That means that characters have be made older (sometimes younger), more attractive, etc, etc, etc.

This is one time when the changes were not too great.  A very minor character was eliminated; one character was made maybe younger (you'll have to read the book to find out which) and some details were changed or shuffled around, but overall, reading the book was like seeing the movie all over again.

There is one way that makes the movie radically different from the book:  that would be R's inner dialogue.  Inner dialogue can be hard for movies.  You can have the character narrate, but you have to careful with that, otherwise you get a movie that's all talk with no action.  In this case, a lot of the inner dialogue was actually between R and Perry and was philosophical.  Trying to show/narrate this could have been really hard, so I don't blame the director for downplaying it.

And now we get to why I love to read science fiction, fantasy and urban fantasy.  A lot of these books are pure escapism, with no loftier goal than to give me an adventure that may or may not take place on good ol' Earth, but a lot of these stories have a deeper philosophical meaning:  what if we blur the line between human and god?  If we can do x, does that mean we should? How can we understand the motivations of aliens if we can barely understand our own?

Warm Bodies explores what it means to be Alive.  While it's written within the Zombie Apocalypse framework, with Zombies (Boneys and Fleshies) vs Living, it could have easily been written without this frame.  It wouldn't be as much fun, though.  I really have a lot more that I want to say about this book, but with the movie still out, I'm afraid I might spoil it for you.

Suffice it to say, I enjoyed the movie and I loved the book.  So go....go see the movie.  Enjoy the chemistry between Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer.  Giggle at the musical/visual jokes (I wish the soundtrack had the rock and Sinatra songs. *sigh*)  Then, go read the book and wrestle with the Big Questions.  Decide for yourself what it means to be Alive.  Do you agree with Isaac Marion?  Would this book be as good if it wasn't set against the Zombie Apocalypse?  Most importantly, how would you keep yourself from being turned into a Zombie?  And if you became a Zombie, how long would it take you to become a Boney?