Kase Wickman January 31, 2013
There’s nothing quite like curling up with a good book, turning the pages and getting lost in a story for hours. Then again, there’s nothing quite like going to the movies, either. Having read Isaac Marion’s “Warm Bodies,” a decidedly different zombie story that finds its hero in the undead, ennui-stricken young R, you’re not sure whether you want to venture out into the cold February weather and shell out the money to see Jonathan Levine’s film adaptation of the same story. Lucky for you, I’ve read the book and seen the movie, and I’m here to fill you in on the 10 major differences between the two versions.
Massive spoilers for both book and movie ahead, obviously.
1. R’s Wife and Kids
One of the biggest surprises, for me, came early on: Zombie R is technically married. With kids! The Boneys, the elder statesman-esque overseers of the airport colony R lives in, “marry” R to a blonde zombie woman he finds on an escalator, then assign them two zombie children to look after and teach how to hunt. In the movie, Julie and R take joyrides in the Mercedes convertible, carefree and tentatively exploring their relationship with one another. Now, in the book version, superimpose two dead-eyed little kids in the back seat. While R contemplates his feelings for Julie, he’s also thinking about what it means to be a father, and what responsibility he has to these kids who were arbitrarily assigned to him by the Boneys. Which brings us to…
2. The Boneys’ Leadership
In the movie, the Boneys are only described as old zombies, so old that they had lost all their flesh. Sure, they weren’t pleased when R took up with human Julie, but they weren’t much more markedly upset than their less-decomposed counterparts. In Marion’s novel, the Boneys are full-on foreboding elders, chastising, proselytizing and ruling over the zombie colony with an iron (bone?) fist. The Boneys have church and school, and enough conscious though on top of that to argue opinions. Though they can’t talk, they make their opinions clear, like when they handed a series of Polaroids depicting the Living massacring zombies to R in an attempt to stop him from falling in love with Julie.
3. Perry as R’s Spirit Guide
Poor, poor Perry. The guy gets offed almost right away in both versions of the story, but in the book, he is far more present throughout the story. Though movie R munches on Perry’s brains a few times throughout the film, experiencing bits of his life and learning about Julie, Perry is essentially R’s spirit animal in the book. As much as the story is about R becoming human, it’s also about the dead Perry learning through dead R how to live. He challenges and goads R, then later guides him, finally ending up at peace in death. Compared to just a few flashbacks in the film version, he’s a totally different, evolving character.
4. R Tells Julie About Killing Perry
Speaking of poor, doomed Perry, R and Julie do it later in the book than in the movie. In the movie version, R tells Julie that, oops, he ate her boyfriend and has been snacking on his remains for weeks, when they are squatting in an abandoned house on the way back to the stadium colony that Julie and the other living humans call home. She says she gets it…then runs away. In the book, however, it’s not until the closing chapters that R makes his big reveal. He leads Julie to the bleak foster home that her ex-bf lived in and uncovers Perry’s secret manuscript (dedicated to her, of course), things that he would only know if he’d chowed down on some grey matter. She forgives him immediately, no hasty exits required. (Love.)
5. General Darkness
Marion’s book is heavy where Levine’s film is lighthearted, not that either of them are soul-crushing in tone. It’s the little details that lend shade to the novel: Julie is briefly mentioned to be a cutter, and reveals that she had sex for money at a young age. Nora, an orphan who lived on her own for years, had sex with Perry shortly after finding her way to the stadium. Julie’s mother couldn’t take the pressure of post-zombie life and walked clear-eyed into a pack of zombies, leaving her daughter to bury an empty dress. General Grigio, Julie’s father, is an alcoholic who can’t deal with the dual loss of his wife and humanity. Perry’s father is killed by a falling brick at a construction site, a random, senseless accident, instead of being turned while grappling with the undead. Oof, lighten up, book!
6. Horndog M
A tick in the lighthearted column for the novel, however, is R’s friend M. In the film, he’s just a sort of nice zombie guy who grunts with R occasionally at the airport. In the novel, he’s a giant horndog of a man, fleshy (though losing flesh, due to the whole zombie thing) and six-and-a-half feet tall. He fantasizes about sex and women, and uselessly dry-humps any zombie lady who’s around several times throughout the book. He asks R what it’s like to have sex with Julie (nope). Goes with the whole “hunger for flesh” theme, though, so we can’t really blame the guy.
7. R’s Outfit
In the movie, R shuffles around wearing a red hoodie, leading him to theorize that he had been unemployed or a student. In the book, he’s wearing a dark suit and red tie, and thinks he may have been a temp worker or new office hire. When he goes to the stadium later, the girls make fun of him for insisting on wearing a tie that is, they say, more than a decade behind fashion.
8. R’s Outlook on (After)life
This one’s a little more subtle and hard to capture, but it’s definitely there. Movie R seems mostly content to wander around the airport wearing his hoodie, snapping off one-liners in his internal monologue. In the book, R seems to want something more. He wonders why he’s different, wishes he could read, wants to know his peers’ names. While in the movie he’s simply being, in the novel he is trying.
9. Sneaking Into the Stadium
The final battle scenes differ somewhat between the book and the movie (the movie favors large-scale battle scenes while the book focuses on the main characters’ smaller struggles moving through the stadium), but no detail leading up to the finale has changed more than how R gets into the stadium in the first place. In the movie, he finds a secret passageway into the structure by sneaking a peek in one of Perry’s memories. In the novel, however, he uses M as a distraction, pretending he’s being attacked and bolting into the city for “safety,” pretending to be a human. You know what they say: If you act like you belong somewhere, you likely won’t be looked at like you don’t belong.
10. General Grigio’s Ending
Um, so much for that happy ending? While in the movie, R, Julie and General Grigio end on a somewhat cheery note, all learning to co-exist and accept one another, just like their mothers taught them. Not so much in the book. See No. 5, Darkness. In a final rooftop confrontation, Grigio’s best friend stabs him in the ankle to keep him from shooting Julie (!!) in the head (!!!). When he falls, an invading Boney grabs Grigio’s ankle and pulls him off the roof, then back on, and starts eating him. Grigio essentially gives up, and ends up going over the edge of the roof and dying along with the Boney. Ouch.
Categories: FeaturesTags: Book vs Movie, Isaac Marion, Jonathan levine, Warm Bodies