Monday, February 4, 2013

Review of Warm Bodies


A guy is frightening.  A gal is forced to stay with him.  He must somehow transform so they can be together.  Is this Beauty and the Beast?  No, it’s Warm Bodies


(Once you watch the trailer, there are no real spoilers below.) 

R (Nicholas Houl) is a zombie who can’t even remember his name.  But unlike zombies in other movies, he’s self-aware, and we can hear his thoughts as he wanders around the abandoned airport several zombies inhabit.  He would like to remember his pre-zombie life, but he can’t.  He would like to communicate with his fellow zombies, but he can only grunt.  So he’s stuck in this dead existence. 

Julie (Teresa Palmer) is part of a group of people overrun by zombies.  She does her best, but when she’s out of shotgun shells, she can only wait for R to kill her.  Instead, he does the most unexpected thing:  He smears some blood and gore on her face to make her smell like a zombie, he shushes her in a calming way, then takes her to an airplane he’s made into a makeshift home.  From there, he gradually begins speaking in a halting sort of way and tries to persuade her to stay.  Why?  His heart has started to beat a little around her, and he’s actually falling in love with her. 

Although Julie is intrigued about the change R is undergoing, she is still well aware he’s a zombie and tries to escape more than once.  When she does get back to her father, who is in charge of what’s left of the human race, she tries to explain that R is changing, becoming human again.  Will she be able to persuade him, and will R pursue this woman he now loves? 

The theme in the trailer is “Love makes us human,” and this is a funny, engaging, and dare I say, sweet zombie movie.  The wry tone that Nicholas Houl maintains in the narration, along with his awkward motions and facial expressions keep the movie constantly amusing.  Teresa Palmer (who has dropped her Australian accent from I Am Number Four) delivers a believable performance as the girl who is gradually coming to trust this thing she has been trained to always avoid.  Her character becomes grating when she’s too rebellious towards her father, but I suppose that’s some effort to make her a strong woman, or something like that.  The awkward chemistry between R and Julie is like that of so many rootless, listless people who are drawn together for no particularly good reason.   

And like any good version of Beauty and the Beast, R has to go through a kind of death experience for this to work . . . but that would be telling.  I described this movie to a friend, noting that the zombies are not gross-looking (except for the bonies—guess what they look like), and she concluded it is an entry-level zombie movie.  So whether or not you’ve enjoyed this genre in the past, I highly recommend Warm Bodies

This all reminds me of the time I took pictures of Seattle’s annual zombie walk


For a Christian spin on this movie, read more. 

Warm Bodies portrays R’s predicament in a way that Christians can recognize, presumably without the screenwriter realizing it.  Although R moves around, thinks, and wonders why there is nothing more to his existence, there is nothing he can do about it.  Then one day something external to him starts to change him.  This is obviously done in zombie terms, so I’m under no illusion that the analogy completely fits.  But his change is not random:  His heart changes as he learns to love. 

This is not some change he planned to have happen, nor does he have control over it.  But he finds himself experiencing love, and he changes.  Christians can recognize this as a conversion story, and the popularity of such a story shows man's desire for this, even disguised in some fantastical form.  

It’s interesting that most zombie movies emphasize the lack of intelligence of zombies, but this one focuses on love.  And as the theme of the trailer states, love makes us human.  

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