On a friend’s recommendation, I rented Warm Bodies this weekend, expecting nothing more than a little mindless entertainment to provide an occasional distraction from homework. What I got, instead, was a break from the usual genre exercise with a symbolic structure that’s almost too overtly Christian to be unintentional. (Spoilers below the break).
“R” (he can’t remember his old name) is a young zombified male, shuffling almost-mindlessly about the airport where he presumably died and turned. Warm Bodies‘ zombies aren’t your usual mindless killers: they retain something like a sense of self and even a dim hope that things might improve for them, though it’s all very weak and muted. Some of the zombies have lost all hope and, in a symbolic repudiation of their humanity, rip the flesh from their bones, degenerating into mindless skeletal predators called “bonies.”
Things turn around for “R” when he sees and falls in love with a beautiful young (still living woman); repudiating his zombiedom, he elects to keep her safe, escorting her back to his makeshift home (a disused airplane), feeding her, playing music for her, and ultimately escorting her back home. At one point his heart begins to beat again; some color returns to his skin and eyes; and his body begins to warm up and to experience temperature.
After confessing an especially evil deed to the young woman and expressing his grief and contrition, “R” falls into a deep sleep — zombies don’t sleep, much less dream — where he dreams of a world where the dead are “exhumed” and given new life.
“R”‘s transition to a full life is completed when, in a heroic act of charity, he sacrifices himself to protect his beloved, plunging into a vast pool of water and emerging from it completely renewed.
So we have persons who are dead, shuffling around without hope, mired in evil, until a moment of encounter with love breathes new life into them and animates them toward the good.
The movie’s finale sees the return of the dead to life and their integration into a (comparatively) idyllic world, the gates of which are opened up to them and the walls surrounding which are knocked down; while the impenitent bonies, completely devoid of hope, are consigned to destruction, an act of justice in which the resurrected souls rejoice.
One has to wonder if this was a deliberately Straussian exercise — intended to appeal to its intended, knowledgeable Christian audience while providing nothing but blood-and-guts and pretty faces to everyone else — or if a spontaneous intuition of the spiritual deadness of the human condition and our need for redemption and salvation is so universal that it occasionally pops up even in the gutter that is Hollywood.
At any rate, it’s not exactly a masterpiece and it’s often laden with shlock and sentimentality (which I suppose is the jizya that Christians must pay to the zeitgeist to get a fair airing of their views), so I wouldn’t recommend it as anything other than a rainy-Saturday sort of diversion if you can’t find a better book. But hey, you could do worse. Like World War Z. Blegh.