Riding on the phenomenal success of the Twilight series and The Walking Dead, Warm Bodies, based on the novel by Isaac Marion, arrives just at a time when the public is ripe for a zombie version of “Beauty and the Beast.” That’s fortunate because this is one of the finer additions to the zombie canon.
As much as I love the genre, zombies have always interested me more as symbols than as monsters to be taken at face value. This is why, after all these years, George Romero’s original Dawn of the Dead is still my favorite zombie film.
Warm Bodies offers the same kind of social commentary that made Dawn of the Dead so great but even more overtly and using satire, romance and fairy tale elements rather than shock and gore. It’s also the first film in memory to turn a zombie into a genuinely sympathetic and, eventually, even a moving character.
And why wouldn’t we sympathize? The hero, “R.” (in a clear allusion to Romeo) is us, after all. Lost, confused and spiritually deadened in a world of cold artificiality, conformity and endless distractions, he seeks to reclaim his humanity. Through simple pleasures – music, human touch, even pain – and ultimately through the miracles of empathy, love and sacrifice, he tries to feel, once again, what it means to be truly alive.
Rooting for him is rooting for ourselves.