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Warm Bodies and Jesus (yes, Jesus)

February 17, 2013

SPOILER ALERT – spoilers will be discussed in great detail of the film Warm Bodies, out in theaters now. Personally, I recommend you see it anyway, but especially before you read this post, unless you prefer to know why I recommend it so much and don’t mind spoilers in which this post may just be perfect for you.



Warm BodiesWarm Bodies is a brilliant, clever turn in the zombie movie genre. In a post-zombie-apocalyptic world, how do you tell a fresh story with a subject so saturated in the popular culture at large? The typical zombie story, the one of survival by a group of humans varying in number, is so overdone.

Shaun of the Dead is a very clever film, billed as “a romantic comedy with zombies” it turns a lot of the zombie film conventions on their ears by paying homages and lovingly parodying them throughout the story. How Bodies differs is that it introduces a component not often featured in most (all?) films of this genre: namely, hope.

The first thing to note that tells you this movie is different is that the protagonist, the lead character, is himself one of the undead. On top of that, he has an inner monologue. Zombies are always portrayed as mindless shells, representative of what they once were: people with personalities, with souls and lives rather than just husks. Basically, they’re just animals in search of their next meal.

Bodies suggests that while this does happen when people are infected with whatever it is that reanimates human tissue, there is still a sliver of humanity, just the tiniest spark, left over. However, at some point even that spark goes out and then by instinct they begin to peel off their skin until all that’s left of them is rotting bone, muscle and organ. Yet somehow, their strength is increased…I’ve never quite understood that (it happens in other movies, too). These unfortunate creatures are referred to as “bonies” and it’s understood that they have no inner monologue except for perhaps, “Grrr,” “Argh” and “Nomnomnom” as they munch on the flesh of anything with a heartbeat.

There’s also the vaguest sense of a social structure among the walking dead. Although the zombies seem to shuffle about aimlessly, it’s not without some reflection of their vocations in their past lives. A security guard stiffly wands corpses as they pass by him; “R”, as the protagonist comes to be known, finds himself joining a fellow deadite (they use this term in the movie, for serious) at an abandoned airport bar and they grunt at each other, as if trying to carry on a conversation and when R leaves, the remaining zombie clumsily gestures for a drink before he apparently realizes there’s no bartender and he wonders what he’s even doing. In Shaun of the Dead, a similar phenomenon is displayed as many of the zombies in that film are initially found in their areas of employment, groaning and shuffling about.

However, one necessary trope that remains intact is the human population holing themselves up in a part of the city with a fortified wall surrounding their living space. It’s actually quite reminiscent of Land of the Dead in that regard as well as the idea of the zombies evolving. But there are a lot of movies of which this story is reminiscent given that it’s the product of an oversaturated environment.

The humans have a great military leader who’s keeping them alive and organizes teams to go out into the city to retrieve supplies necessary for survival. On the latest team to go on a mission is his daughter, Julia, a pretty 20-something blonde who is in a relationship, albeit a faltering one, with her team leader. As they’re searching a medical facility a pack of zombies featuring R and his friend happen upon them and over the course of the encounter R kills Julia’s boyfriend and decides to take his brains for two interesting reasons: 1) if you eat the brains of your victim, he/she won’t reanimate – it’s a mercy move. 2) When a zombie ingests the brains of its victims, it also ingests the memories, and seeing as how zombies have virtually none of their own, it’s a fleeting moment of feeling alive again. One can see how this could perpetuate hope in the undead of returning to life, or make them so miserable, thinking there’s no hope of going back and driving them to take the last step into hopelessness and becoming bonies.

During the course of R’s assault he spies Julia and something happens – something inside of him which he doesn’t quite know how to handle. He finds himself not wanting to eat her, but to save her. So, he smears some blood on her, disguising her scent, and takes her with him back to his airplane where he’s amassed a collection of trinkets and souvenirs from the old life, most notably a growing LP collection and record player. Here he keeps Julia safe and a relationship begins to grow between the two of them.

What’s happened is, he’s fallen in love and it begins to reverse his condition. He begins to feel again, ever-so-slowly his heart begins to beat again. Over the course of a couple escape attempts, Julia nearly gets devoured but R comes to her aid. The other zombies see them as he takes her hand and it sparks something in all of them. Soon, they begin to see more reminders of love all around them and their conditions begin to reverse. Of course, that involves their hearts beginning to beat again, too and the bonies which would leave the zombies alone begin to sense the change and start threatening them.

That’s the thing about a hopeless, miserable spirit: if it can’t have the hope of joy, no one can. Misery loves company.

Now before I go off into the deeper theme of the film, I want to point out another major influence on this story. A young man named R falls in love with someone absolutely unattainable, someone whose family would shoot him on sight for simply being what they perceive him to be while taking no consideration of who he might be. Remind you of any other stories?

Anyway, the idea of love bringing life back to the dead – kinda cheesy, eh? Well, I see it as a brilliant spiritual parallel and this is why I’m so jazzed about church groups, particularly youth groups, going to see it and discussing the crap out of it afterward.

The love of God brings the dead back to life!! The love of Jesus awakens our stone cold, dead hearts as we walk about, dead in sin.

Think about it – as we all go about, before experiencing Jesus’ love, we desperately search for ways to feel alive, seeking purpose. In this quest we do often fall prey to addictions that promise meaning and fulfillment: getting the perfect job; having the perfect marriage; sleeping with the most beautiful people without commitment; making the most money; having the newest toys; being the best at something – the list goes on and can vary from person-to-person, but it’s always a cheap substitute for what God promises us if we’d just come to Him.

We see signs of Him in our day to day lives – in the beauty of nature, in the sacrificial living of others, in the love we feel from our friends, and such things point to Him and make us feel fleeting moments of life, but unless we firmly grab hold of Him, that’s all the life is – a fleeting feeling.

To that end, according to the illustration, all the zombies are redeemed – and the living are kind of like the Pharisees, or the Hebrews of the early church who were reluctant to let Gentiles into the Church. I can imagine Peter saying, “They’re uncircumcised – gun ’em down!” You know, saying the zombies are uncircumcised and thus, un-Jewish. However, once the humans see they really are alive and redeemed, they accept them. That’d be the moment the Holy Spirit has His moment with Peter and sends him to Cornelius.Acts chapter 10.

But the bonies…the poor, hopeless bonies. Their hearts are forever hardened and the only thing for them is their destruction – hell – they’ve given up on hope and mutilated themselves to the point where they can’t be redeemed. So, they’re already dead, but then they die again at the hands of the humans and restored zombies – Revelation 2:11.

In the end the film offers something not seen in (m)any zombie films – hope. Like, real, genuine, bona fide hope. The happy ending is earned and while you think you know how it’s going to turn out, the filmmakers are cunning enough to make you really wonder and concerned about the characters.

So that’s it. That’s all I’ve got. While major plot points are revealed, not all of them are and there are many things I’ve left out that make the movie so very interesting to watch.

Now, it is a zombie movie and there are still rather gruesome parts to it. I’d recommend a general minimum age of 13, but you know your kids better than I.

Warm Bodies is a clever, inventive film that takes tropes from long-standing familiar films and makes something new and beautiful.

Check it out. It’s a heck of lot better than Die Hardly, I can guarantee that.

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