A group of my friends got together recently to watch Warm Bodies, the zom-com based on a popular internet story that’d been out for a while now. They weren’t content to just watch it though: we followed up the film with a 2 hour discussion of the themes and symbolism involved in it. Yeah, we’re weird, I know. Anyway, I agreed a decent amount of the symbolism mentioned in it, though I felt it was carried pretty far. Here’s the interpretation of the film that I’m comfortable with.
Warm Bodies mashes up three different genres, or four, depending on how you count them. The Zombie Apocalypse, the Romantic Comedy, and Shakespeare are all combined, with Paranormal Romance as a fourth genre, if you didn’t find that obvious from the fact that a zombie apocalypse and a romantic comedy have been shoehorned into a Romeo and Juliet story, presumably so that any seventh graders will feel that their English course had some worth after all. The ending is an important aspect to considers, so, spoilers to follow.
The ending is entirely different. Good ol’ R&J both die, alone with half the cast, according to Bill Shakespeare’s original script. This time around, not only do neither the zombie guy nor the human gal die a horrible permanent death, but the zombie actually recovers from his zombification. It’s a Hollywood ending as the happy couple and everyone that you may have pitied at any point in the film lives happily ever after.
This modification of the story allows the entire film it’s strongest element: theme of the healing power of human connection. Originally, the zombies are disconnected — they seldom touch, they have shrunken zombie pupils, they eat brains in order to experience humanity once again for a few moments. The ones who completely give up hope peel off their faces and become ‘bonies,” which are even worse, tougher zombies.
The zombies’ hearts start back up, symbolically spurred by the love connection between our two heroes, which proves that zombies can still connect without needing to eat brains. In the end, the zombies are redeemed, and they are connected once more. And, as a quick scenes towards the beginning points out, the whole zombie situation can be compared to the smart-phone-absorbed generation’s lack of connection.
This symbolism is great and all, but it runs alongside the plot, rather than constituting it or at least dovetailing with it. The actual plot is just driven by a few attacks from the bonies, which propel everyone to a final climax that never feels as fulfilling as the themes of the film. It would have been a better film if they had ignored the traditional Hollywood need for cardboard monsters in a zombie film, and relied both on the reveals of the importance of connection and on a little more satire of the teenage mindset (One particularly good line is something similar to “does anyone else feel the same?” A self-obsessed and wrong yet universal thought becomes a much more legitimate one when taken from a teenager’s mind and stuck into a zombie’s.
Ultimately, it’s a fun concept, but the film could have been better. It’s just of the cutesy, quaint variety. Nice acting from the zombie lead and his best zombie friend, though. It looks like they enjoyed it.