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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Warm Bodies

By
Adam Shaw
Source: Catholic News Service


Teresa Palmer and Nicholas Hoult star in a scene from the movie "Warm Bodies."
Wouldn't classic love stories like Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" be all the better if zombies were thrown into the mix?

Agree or disagree, that's the basic thrust of director and screenwriter Jonathan Levine's "Warm Bodies" (Summit)—an oddly touching picture based on Isaac Marion's novel of the same name. Unusual for its genre, this monster mash goes light on the gore, and contains a surprising number of Christian-friendly themes.

The premise is as old as boy meets girl ... well, nearly. A mysterious virus has turned vast hordes of humanity into flesh-eating monsters, and those who have remained human are camped out in hastily built fortresses.

One of the undead, known as R (Nicholas Hoult), finds he's able to think semi-rationally, and even curb some of his brain-munching instincts. He grapples with this realization as he comes across the very-much-alive Julie (Teresa Palmer). Somewhat inauspiciously, R initially spies Julie while he's ingesting her boyfriend, Perry (Dave Franco).

Nonetheless, on a whim even he finds surprising, R rescues Julie from certain death at the hands of his hungry companions. He then keeps her safe and fed, and also entertains her with the collection of vinyl records he preserves in the grounded plane that serves as his base.

As his relationship with Julie blossoms, they both come to recognize that R is becoming more and more human with each passing day. And he might not be the only zombie to be affected by this phenomenon. It's a process that begins with the emotional stirrings of the once-flatlined heart, and may end in a fully restored life.

The couple must use their newfound knowledge to try and reconcile the zombie gangs with the militaristic humans, the latter led by Julie's father, Gen. Grigio (John Malkovich). This task is all the more urgent because a new enemy threatens both groups: So-called "Boneys"—zombies in the last stages of decay who roam the earth as evil skeletons.

Redemption, in Levine's script, comes through love, whether it be R's deepening feelings for Julie or other zombies' recollections of their beloved families. Those who have no such reaction, by contrast, are consigned to torment as their need for flesh consumes them.

R initially believes he has no choice but to follow his base cannibalistic desire. But once he meets Julie, he discovers that, while the temptation to do so is still strong, he is able to resist it in order to become a better—more fully alive—person.

R's restraint in the pursuit of virtue may represent an unusual version of asceticism. Yet, by analogy at least, it certainly stands in contrast to the prevailing message of contemporary society that happiness can be found by pursuing every materialistic or bodily urge.

However remotely, given the context, R's discovery that self-denial can result in our becoming more human—and better able to care for those we love—does echo Jesus' exhortation to take up the cross and follow him.

The film contains some restrained gory violence, occasional profanity, at least one instance of rough language and about a half-dozen crude terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
Adam Shaw is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.





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Junipero Serra: In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. 
<p>Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World. </p><p>Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there. </p><p>Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two <i>conquistadors</i>—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived. </p><p>Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death. </p><p>Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans. </p><p>Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns. </p><p>Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988. Pope Francis canonized him in Washington, D.C., on September 23, 2015.</p> American Catholic Blog Hope and faith can outshine the darkness of evil. However dense the darkness may appear, our hope for the triumph of the light is stronger still. Though violence continues to stain us with blood, the shadows of death can be dissipated with one act of light.

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