“Warm Bodies,” a Classic Romantic-Comedy Zombie Sci-Fi Thriller 19

I don’t go to the movies that often, and when I do, I don’t normally make it a zombie movie. But when I saw the trailer for “Warm Bodies,” something told me I’ve got to see this one.

Unexpectedly clean social commentary that makes you laugh at yourself

Unexpectedly clean social commentary that makes you laugh at yourself

Before I get started, the only disclaimer I’d like to make is that I’m not recommending “Warm Bodies” as a “film for the whole family to enjoy.” I’m not even suggesting that you should see it, but if you were intrigued by the trailer, as I was, and thought that maybe this might be a good movie to see, then I don’t think you’ll be disappointed if you see it. It’s a movie that delivers exactly what it promises: good, clean (well… I mean it is a zombie movie), funny, auto-critical, romantic fun with a little action, a little suspense, and it leaves you with a lot to think about.

So, why did I watch it and why am I writing this review?

The first thing that caught my attention about this movie was that it was obviously meant as a critique on 21st century society that’s still trying to find itself.

I immediately thought of two things when I first saw the trailer: teen culture’s gross fascination with romanticized vampire movies, popularized by the “Twilight” Saga, and the gross amount of zombie films over the past decade that seem to just keep coming, and coming, and coming… like zombies. They just won’t go away. You almost want to say, “What? Another zombie movie!” “Another romantic girl meets undead-boy flick!” This movie subtly demystifies both and could put an end to these morbid obsessions.

Second, it’s not another girl meets boy movie. It’s the classic girl meets boy movie (literally classic, meaning Shakespeare). You don’t realize until near the very end that you’ve been duped. During “the balcony scene,” the male zombie protagonist, whose name is “R” risks his life by showing his face at the home of “Julie”(-t), whose father would instantly kill the unlikely suitor on first sight. In contrast to Shakespeare’s classic tragedy, this tale has a happy ending (because it’s a comedy). In this story, love saves the world and does not end in suicide — nor does the girl have to become a zombie, or a vampire, or some other dead thing in order to find her fulfillment. Another breath of fresh air.

Finally, the love theme in “Warm Bodies” is not simple puppy love. R’s maturing love for Julie and vice-versa is contagious and turns out to be the cure for zombie-death. The other zombies in the film would like to eat Julie’s brain (because that’s what zombies have to do, remember), but they can’t. They cannot bring themselves to do it and they are not sure why at first. Slowly, they begin to realize that it is because R and Julie have the very thing that their painful, relationless, monotonously dead lives are missing, something they have all but given up in their own lives — the hope that true love could be real.

The ambiguous unambiguous message 

Like any good post-modern social critique, “Warm Bodies” delivers a clear, yet not-so-clear message. Throughout the movie it is clear that zombies are trapped in their own inner-world, unable to relate to other beings, including zombies like themselves, let alone with the humans they must eat in order to survive. The scenes at the airport mimic the mall scene in “Dawn of the Dead” (okay, I saw it, but that was years ago, when I was a kid, okay). In the mall, zombies mindlessly window-shop, disconnected from the world — then again, that’s the only world there is, for them.

In the airport, zombies do what people do at the airport. They wait around, they sit at bars, try to strike meaningful conversations with other zombies but they can’t. They fiddle with gadgets, gaze into cellphone screens, walk around aimlessly listening to iPods. There’s no “human” interaction. Some of them even behave like they are working at the airport, sweeping the floors or scanning other zombies at the metal detector, but they don’t seem to know why, as if the tasks themselves were meaningless. And they are. There’s no life in their world.

The unambiguous message is that people need loving relationships with other people in order to live healthy, meaningful lives. Eventually, people can become hardened once they reject the possibility of love, and for some there is no turning back. In the film this is represented by “the bonies,” deader than dead walking skeletons. What’s odd is that zombies naturally try to resist decaying into bonies – but why?

This question brings us to the film’s ambiguous message. In the end, the humans and zombies discover that they can save each other from inevitable annihilation at the hands of the other, if the humans can reeducate the zombies about love.

The question is who in this world needs to be reeducated about love and by whom? The answer to that question is, of course, left to each viewer’s interpretation, which of course depends on their worldview. The movie presents love as innocent and noble and it rightly portrays it as something all people need and desire. But it also suggests that perhaps our views on love need to change, that that change is for the good, and that some people, namely, the humans, are enlightened about that change. There is hope for the zombies if they can be enlightened about love, that is, if they are open to what love really is and can accept it. And then there are the bonies who are too far gone and hardened to be reeducated. There is no hope for them. They are a threat to the survival of civilization so they must be killed off or isolated and contained until they eventually rot away and perish for good.

So, who is who in this scenario and who are you?

I think most people are human. So they leave this feel-good-about-yourself movie feeling good about themselves, feeling warm. For most people, it probably reinforces their views on love and for the most part that’s probably a good thing, assuming they have the right idea about what love is in the first place. Assuming that when they eventually find what they are looking for — what they call love — it really is the right thing.

19 comments

  1. Pingback: “Warm Bodies,” a Classic Romantic-Comedy Zombie Sci-Fi Thriller | CATHOLIC FEAST

  2. My 14 year old son saw this movie with friends. I wasn’t crazy about the title (certainly didn’t sound appropriate for teenagers!) but when I read the reviews, it seemed o.k. He loved it. Came home and told me that I would have enjoyed it – that love conquers all! OK, not a bad message…even if it is from a zombie movie! lol!

    • Not a bad message especially if it is from a zombie movie (lol)!

      Thanks, Trish. I do recommend this movie for teens and young adults. It’s good for a date movie or just an evening of laughs. Actually, I just added it to my list of possible film forums, because it is both entertaining and has enough substantial content for a stimulating discussion afterward, depending on the audience’s level of maturity (teens and young adults). Parents can also watch it and enjoy it with their kids (because of the music if not for any other reason). But I’m still not calling it a family movie — I’m not! ;)

  3. Good post but I have a question. “Who in this world needs to be reeducated about love?” How do we “educate” people on love?

    The people that saw Jesus every single day, were “educated” on love. They had Love standing there in front of them, yet they still hung Him on the Cross? Even the Apostles were afraid, except for John.

    We see three standing at the foot of the Cross, and I don’t know, I think they were standing there, because of their hearts. Their hearts “knew” love.

    I am trying to figure out, can humans be “educated” when it comes to love, or is it something which must come from the heart?

    As usual a post that sent me to another question for you:>) God Bless, SR

    • Good observation and questions, SR.

      It was the word “reeducated” in the movie that caught my attention. That is a loaded term.

      As to how we educate people about love, first, we know that the heart is made for love, so even if it is disoriented, it can be directed toward it, find it, and love in return.

      Second, we teach by example, as Jesus did. Since the heart is made for love, it will know real love and be attracted to it when it experiences it. The important thing is to give the example of selfless love to others, as our Lord did.

      Of course people have to be sincere. There is a lot of falsehood leading people astray. Sincere, self-giving love will never deceive or be deceived.

      • Thanks for answer! Makes sense. “The heart is made for love.” That helped explain it a lot! Thanks for taking the time to respond. God Bless, SR

    • Thanks Fr Matthew. I should give you credit for pointing out the Romeo and Juliet clue in the names “R” and Julie — I probably would have missed that otherwise.

  4. I think your answer above to SR is “dead-on”” (sorry for the pun, James!)…

    We educate by example, just as we would with our own kids.

    My wife of close to 20 years and I try our best to show the faith in God, respect, love, patience, and work necessary in a successful marriage, and why it’s worth it. Hopefully, someone will see us and maybe realize that love IS possible, even if their own life experiences have led them to believe “love” is just something you see in fairy tales.

    Or, of course, maybe they’ll see us and just think we’re completely nuts. ;)

    By the way: if I’d started a pool on whose blog I’d next see a Zombie-related post, yours would have been towards the bottom of the pile.
    Nice surprise and an excellent job, my friend.

    • Would they think you’re nuts? Not if they’re still human. I think the reason why this movie is likable is that for all the unreal and surreal elements in the film it’s message is convincingly realistic. The message of love transmitted through example is admirable, desirable, and contagious. Congratulations to you and your wife, JTR!

      Well, since this is probably the last zombie movie I’ll see for another 20 years, I doubt you’ll find a zombie-related post here anytime soon. But who knows. I’d still like to end with a zombie pun, some people might consider that to be… tasteless.

  5. I saw the trailer a couple of weeks ago and it didn’t appeal to me at all, probably because The Walking Dead rules in my house full of testosterone. Maybe I can convince my hubby to see the movie with me….maybe.

  6. Biltrix,

    This is off of the subject so please delete this, but have you heard anything about Priest in Italy burning a poster of the Pope. I figured you would know if it was true or not? Like I said please feel free to delete this. Thanks and God Bless,SR

    • Sadly, it may be true, but here’s the flip side. Right now, anything and everything said on Pope Emeritus Benedict gets published and widely spread and then immediately accepted to the extent that it almost does not matter what is true and what is not anymore. If it makes print, it’s already news.

      We live in an age of media sensationalism where people no longer distinguish what is really real from shadows cast on the wall. Someone just needs to shout, “Look here!” and everyone cranes their necks and they gawk and gaze at shallow appearances, without depth or content or meaning. The media know this, because they created this culture.

      We need to rescue our culture from the death-grip of shadow puppets.

  7. Hi,
    Haven’t see warm bodies but read the reviews…I had an interest because of the Vampire cult that teenagers are presently into.
    You mention this one is good for discussion afterwards, but should a teenager already have been given those values within the context of a loving Catholic family?
    I tend to gently steer my kids clear from anything which has a hint of necrophilia, or that parodies the “Eucharistic” when it comes to drinking blood and eating flesh. Seriously, am I too out of touch and this is where most teens learn their “morals?” these days?

    • Hi,
      I understand your concerns. In my opinion, this movie transmits positive values and steers away from necrophilia and “Eucharistic” parody. I think it intentionally avoids these issues in a healthy way. There is only one scene, near the beginning, where zombies attack, kill, and do what zombies do — eat the victims. They kept the gore to a minimum and the male zombie character, whose thoughts are narrated throughout the film, even says (“thinks”) something like, “I really don’t like doing this… In fact, I’m a little embarrassed by it. Please just look away during this part.” So the movie presents that sort of thing as undesirable and keeps it to a minimum. As for “brain eating,” they present it as disgusting but not visually disgusting, in a “tell, don’t show,” sort of way.

      Now, I think that the negative themes you mention could be used in a discussion about this film in order to educate on some of the things that media culture transmits to today’s young audiences. This can be done in such a way to help young people to establish sound criteria for choosing which movies they ought to see and to evaluate the ones they do see.

      Again, I think this movie is “safe.” It properly merits the PG-13 rating (I mean that in a good way), and can stimulate good discussion on media and positive societal values. However, a parent’s job is to discern what their children should and should not be exposed to, according to their age or level of maturity. So I will stop short of saying that this is a must see for all kids and that there are no caveats involved. What I will say is that compared with most of the trash that’s out there, this is not a bad choice of a movie for teens (IMO).

      Finally, because of the way it uses irony to treat certain issues that our culture has popularized, I think the movie can also help to demystify some of the taboo that sometimes attracts curious young minds and leads them into mischief. Followed by a good discussion afterward, viewing this movie can help form kids’ critical thinking abilities with regard to pop culture. But of course, you would want to view the movie first in order to prepare that kind of discussion ahead of time.

      Thanks for your comment!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s