Warm Bodies

I saw Warm Bodies, and I really liked it. It’s well done and the metaphor it’s playing with is obvious and powerful without needing to be constantly remarked upon. The narrative is tight and simple. There are really only three or four characters, and the dialogue is pretty minimal too. The movie kind of speaks for itself, and it’s self-speaking style is made all the more powerful by the fact that the production value seems below other hollywood fare (not way below, just unmistakably below).

So the overall metaphor of the movie is pretty clear. It’s from the perspective of “R,” a zombie who has little tinges of consciousness. He’s not quite a corpse, but he can’t articulate any thoughts. He just has this nagging thought that there’s something more to life than shuffling around and moaning. The other zombies that R shuffles by are zombies, but in reality, they’re standing proxy for ORDINARY PEOPLE and ORDINARY LIFE. The idea is that ordinary life can become corpse-like, a possibility that I appreciate and fear. People can, if things are just dehumanizing enough, be only going through the motions. Enter R, who wants more. He has a spark of feeling and slowly grows more human as he falls in love with Julie, a human he rescues on a whim.

What I think is the real story and the real artistry of Warm Bodies is the way that it finishes out the arc of the interest we have in zombies, vampires, and other things. What makes zombies compelling is the mythos that surrounds them. They are scary and they are the other. They are completely non-human, inhuman, anti-human. Whatever you want. And there are a TON of movies and tv shows (walking dead on AMC now, land of the dead, dawn of the dead, 28 weeks later, quarantine, night of the living dead) that explore the tension that a zombie world creates for human beings. For instance, do we become a garrison society? To survive, must we become in turn somewhat dead? Deadened to things that we take for granted in non-zombie life. There have been explorations of zombies as biological weapons gone wrong, pointing to the way that humans create their problems for themselves. Other movies explore the pure horror of facing something that is already dead. Some movies, like Shaun of the Dead, even use zombies to make jokes (as does Warm Bodies to an extent)

Sooner or later though, a theme and a mythos runs its course. Zombies are reflections of ourselves, a reflection of our flawed nature, our opposite, our future, our past, but in Warm Bodies, the mythos returns to ground zero — in Warm Bodies WE ALREADY ARE ZOMBIES AND ALWAYS HAVE BEEN. We return to the perspective of the zombie and enter their consciousness and we find out that in fact, not only are zombies like us, but they are JUST LIKE US. They have hopes and dreams and want to succeed, if only they can get the chance. It is the risk of intolerance from the humans that keeps them, almost, in their half-alive state. In this, the movie is pure genius, because it responds to an artistic tradition with poise: our entire fascination with zombies is reinterpreted and distilled into the character of the general. The movies asks us why zombies could fill all the roles that we made them play over the years and asks to consider the simple possibility that they might have feelings too. The movie asks to question the fundamental premise we used to create zombies: that they have nothing “inside,” and so have no use or value other than as threats to life and instruments to horror.


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