The dating pool is pretty shallow when you're a zombie.
Fellow zombies aren't interested in going steady. They'd much rather shamble around and grunt. And humans—well, human-zombie relationships are inherently prickly. You'd probably not like the same movies. Dinners out would be horribly conflicted. Even small-talk would be frustrating. For example:
"So … what do you do for a living?
"Ooops! Sorry, I should have asked what you used to do. When you were living, I mean."
But you know how young love is. When your heart tells you something, it's very hard to ignore it—even if that heart happens to be stiff with rigor mortis.
Meet R. (It's his name and what he says.) He's a zombie who's smitten with a human. Not literally, of course. Humans smite zombies all the time in these sorts of movies, and rarely does it lead to true love. But from the moment he sets eyes on Julie (again, not literally) as she guns down his zombie pals, R knows that this is the un-undead woman for him. So when the smoke clears a little and the time feels right (when Julie's ammunition is spent), R works up his coagulated courage and shambles over to introduce himself.
It is, as you might imagine, an awkward introduction. Still, Julie wisely knows that it's better to be in the company of a friendly zombie than—well, the other kind. And there are still lots of the other kind hovering around. So R smears Julie's face with some zombie blood (masking her distinctively lively scent) and the two stagger off to spend some time together.
But R is racked with insecurity. It's been a long time since he's been fully human, and his dating etiquette is a bit hazy. When is it appropriate to hold hands? Do you kiss on the third date or fourth? What if she doesn't appreciate his deteriorating fashion sense?
And when, exactly, is it the right time to mention that he ate her old boyfriend?
R and Julie are intended to be somewhat analogous to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. (They even get a rather bizarre balcony scene together.) They come from very different worlds, these two, and their respective cliques (R's shambling zombie mates and Julie's survivalist human companions) are bent on wiping each other off the face of the earth. But unlike Shakespeare's overwrought tragedy, this one (while also overwrought) actually has a happy ending.
In this world, zombies have some very vague recollection that they used to be human (when they lose that recollection, they turn into the unredeemable, über-creepy boneys), and R seems to retain more humanity than most. He's decorated an old airplane like a dorm room, filling it with stuff he's picked up on his shambling adventures. He loves listening to vinyl records because the music seems more "alive." But he's still definitely undead—until Julie comes along and, both literally and metaphorically, sets his heart to beating again. He protects her with the zeal of an idealized (if slightly decayed) knight, proving to be a gentleman and protector, even risking his unlife to save her.
Julie, meanwhile, sees through R that these zombies—grotesque, violent beings she's been taught to fear and hate—may be more complex than anyone knows. The more time R spends with Julie, the more alive he becomes.
Their relationship does not go unnoticed by R's zombie cohorts. Their strange union sparks long-dormant memories in them, slowly rekindling their inherent humanity. Instead of wanting to eat humans, they eventually help them.
Warm Bodies, then, encourages us to look beyond what we think we know about people and, instead, try to truly understand them. It tells us that kindness and hope can be just as contagious as an apocalyptic plague. And it speaks, most importantly, to the power of true and sacrificial love.
The Gospel tells us that we (like R) are all dead without Christ's saving love and grace. When we're given that love, we're given new life—not just the promise of eternal life, but a glorious life now, which frees us to experience this grand ol' world in nifty new ways and (again, like R) encourages us to bring that sort of life and happiness to others.
On the other hand, you could argue that the mere presence of the walking dead thrusts upon us an entirely different worldview—one where the afterlife can never be filled with heavenly joy, consumed as it is with devouring brains and maggot infestations.
This is all extrapolated, of course. The closest thing to concrete spirituality we see onscreen is a zombified turban-wearing Sikh lurching about.
When zombies consume brains in Warm Bodies, they experience the person's memories. And when R eats the brain of Perry (Julie's boyfriend), he (and we) see snippets of the guy's relationship with her, including kisses and snuggles.
While accompanying R, Julie strips down to her underwear before getting into bed. (We see her from the rear.) She asks R to not look. It takes him some time to turn away, but he eventually does and sleeps chastely on the floor.
[Spoiler Warning] Julie and R, are he eventually becomes human again, smooch passionately in a pool. Julie and her friend Nora ogle R as he grows ever more alive (and, in their words, "hot").
Zombies are messy eaters, with blood encrusting their mouths. Their mode of food preparation is none too pretty either. R and a horde of zombies attack Julie's cadre of humans, leading to a battle filled with guns, knives, fists and teeth. R takes down Perry, smashing the human's head against the floor and sinking his teeth into his arm before the camera turns away. R obviously eats part of Perry and, in fact, takes a chunk of his brain back to his airplane to snack on later. (Handfuls of it look like clumps of sticky rice or chunky, half-soaked bread.) But when he eats a piece that makes him "remember" his attack on Perry—seen through Perry's eyes—R spits it out in shame and horror.
Perry, Julie and others shoot several zombies in the head (which "kills" them) and elsewhere (which does not). One zombie is riddled with bullets but continues to lurch forward. Julie stabs R in the gut. Later, someone shoots him in the shoulder, causing him to bleed (proof that he's regaining his humanness). R tells us that, in a way, it felt good to feel that pain—an unfamiliar sensation for him.
Zombies—and the audience—see a boney feeding on a body on a fire escape, dropping organs on a car below. A zombie runs over three boneys with an airport baggage vehicle and later smashes a couple of their heads. People join with zombies to destroy a collection of boneys. (There's lots of punching and kicking and shooting.) Two people fall from a great height, landing in a pool.
Crude or Profane Language
One f-word and better than half-a-dozen s-words. We hear uses of "a‑‑," "b‑‑ch" and "h‑‑‑." Jesus' name is abused four or five times, while God's is misused a dozen or more.
Drug and Alcohol Content
R gives a very appreciative Julie a beer. We hear that she was once grounded for a year for drinking peach schnapps. Julie, Perry and others raid a pharmacy in search of needed meds. (Prozac is the only drug mentioned by name.)
Other Negative Elements
It's known that Julie and Perry sneak away from the human compound and into zombie territory against Julie's father's wishes.
Our own real-life society shares some similarities with the one we see in Warm Bodies. Oh, we don't have to worry about brain-eating zombies or live behind protective walls (though I guess a few of us do make our homes in gated communities). But we are pretty cautious about who we choose to trust. And most of us have suffered hurt at the hands of someone else.
For some—those who've been hurt many, many times—the act of trusting is near impossible, the proof required enormous.
Obviously, the hurdles would be quite high for a human to ever trust a zombie. And that's what makes Warm Bodies (based on a book by Isaac Marion) so curiously moving. In R's every act he shows his kindness and faithfulness. "You try so much harder than any human in my city," Julie tells him.
This movie is, in some ways, a mirror image of R. It's gruesome. It can be foul. Its mere existence—a zombie romcom—can make us question the sanity of the world around us. But somewhere underneath its gray, flaky skin, a warm, pink heart beats. After assailing everyone with violence and profanity, it offers those of us who sometimes feel rather zombie-like ourselves at times a little bit of hope and goodness. In its own Dawn of the Dead-meets-Pollyanna way, this movie tries.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Drama, Romance, Horror, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure
Nicholas Hoult as R; Teresa Palmer as Julie; Analeigh Tipton as Nora; Rob Corddry as M; Dave Franco as Perry; John Malkovich as Grigio
Jonathan Levine (50/50, The Wackness)
February 1, 2013
Paul Asay Paul Asay