‘Warm Bodies’ represents societal fears, communication woes

I love the new movie “Warm Bodies.” It’s only been in U.S. theaters since Feb. 1, but I’ve already seen it three times, and I have plans to see it a fourth.

The funny thing is, I’ve never been particularly attracted to supernatural movies and television, much less zombies.

“Warm Bodies” has been compared to the Twilight series for its romance between the living and dead. Yet, I find Twilight disenchanting and lacking in didactic value, while “Warm Bodies” is charming and thought-provoking.

Despite being a bit of an unorthodox zombie flick, “Warm Bodies” does adhere to many classic tropes of the living dead. The main character, R (Nicholas Hoult), eats brains, is slow-moving and initially can only produce grunts, groans and words such as “hungry.” But for a zombie, he’s also incredibly endearing, and he offers some interesting (and witty) commentary on the human condition.

Zombies are meant to represent societal fears of the status of humans and communication. R is no different.

What’s unique about “Warm Bodies” and R is that he serves as a sort of narrator throughout the entire film. He struggles to verbally form a simple sentence, but his mind exhibits coherency and a high level of thinking.

Worse, he’s perfectly cognizant of the fact that his physical and mental form will continue to degenerate until he’s nothing but an emotionless, man-eating skeleton — one of the “Bonies,” as they’re called. As R points out, he’ll eat people, too, but at least he’s conflicted about it. He’s a prisoner in his own body, enslaved by the instincts of hunger and, more importantly, the inability to communicate.

It doesn’t sound too different from the modern living, breathing human.

R’s desire to connect with people, to live as humans once did, is presented with a heavy dose of irony. Early in the film, he pauses to think, “It must have been so much better before, when everybody could express themselves and communicate their feelings.”

The scene then shifts to the pre-zombie apocalypse, and everyone around R has their eyes glued to their electronic devices. No one’s looking at each other. No one’s talking to each other. The living are just as dead as R. The only differences are that they don’t have rotting skin and don’t hunger for brains.

Communication, or the lack thereof, is the whole point of the film. R begins to undergo a major change when he falls for one of the earth’s presumably few remaining humans, Julie (Teresa Palmer). He begins to speak. He begins to feel. He begins to connect. He begins to become human again.

That’s the difference between Twilight and “Warm Bodies.” Bella’s romance with Edward leads to her death, to her becoming a vampire. R and Julie’s relationship leads to R becoming more alive.

The question we need to ask ourselves is, “What do we need to do to become alive again?”

 

Reach the columnist at cblodget@asu.edu or follow her @carlyhopeb

 

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