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Great stories, such as those told by the masters of the silver screen, often contain echoes of biblical truths – as though the great themes of Scripture are whispering to be told, revealing themselves like threads of silver truth in a tapestry too often of burlap.
But when the source of these stories is Hollywood, the stories are often incomplete: extolling love, but neglecting purity; rejoicing in mercy without the context of justice; offering hope without the certainty of fulfillment or mentioning the Name in which our hopes are secure.
Like a church that worships in spirit, but not in truth (see John 4:24), only half the equation is present. It feels right, but left untended to bear its fruit, this incomplete truth withers on the vine from which it’s grown.
Discerning audiences who spy these silver threads, then, are left with one of two choices: They can bemoan the world is offered a taste of the truth without revealing the only One in which the hunger can be sated, or they can rejoice at the opportunity to use the hunger to point others toward the ultimate Truth.
Count me in the latter camp.
If I didn’t believe that believers could use the power of film to awaken a God-hunger in audiences and point them to the Bread of Life, I wouldn’t be going to see these very worldly films, such as this weekend’s zombie love-flick, “Warm Bodies.” Why subject myself to it?
I go that I can understand the yearnings of my lost neighbors, speak their language (for movies, more than TV or music or literature or news, provide the common language for the American culture) and like Paul at the altar of the unknown god (Acts 17:23 – “For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: ‘To an unknown god.’ Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you”), proclaim that these whispers of truth in film point to the One Truth, Jesus Christ.
So I can bemoan that “Warm Bodies” speaks of love and redemption, but fails to identify Jesus as the Redeemer, or I can rejoice that audiences are seeking love and redemption and point them to Christ myself.
I choose rejoicing.
Don’t mistake me – I have no taste for the popular “zombie” theme in entertainment. I tried watching the TV show “The Walking Dead” and just couldn’t stomach it. I didn’t care for the mummy obsession in films a few years ago, don’t care for the culture’s rampant vampire mania … shoot, I didn’t even like the wizardry of Harry Potter.
But “Warm Bodies” is one of the best, funniest and most unique films of the year so far – and also one with a story that clearly parallels the gospel.
The movie portrays a post-apocalyptic future where a virus turned most of humanity into flesh-eating zombies and only a few living humans remain in isolation behind a barricade. But when one zombie falls head over heels for a living girl, it awakens something within him – a heartbeat. And somehow, it appears as if the walking dead … can actually come back to life.
The film is sweet and clever (if logically inconsistent at times), the script is witty and I found myself laughing out loud often. The performances aren’t masterpieces, but they’re in tune with the quirky movie and, thankfully, “Warm Bodies” isn’t nearly as gruesome as many in the zombie genre. It’s an enjoyable movie. The audience even clapped in my theater, not a common occurrence.
Best of all, however, the movie sets up a unique parable for the gospel. It portrays a world where most people wander about lost, lacking and yearning for something, but not knowing what it is. Some among them have even stopped seeking and become truly evil. But behind high walls (i.e. the church) live a few living souls who hold the key to redemption … if they can get over their prejudice and apathy to leave their sanctuary with a message of love.
And, ultimately, it is love that brings these dead ones back to life.
True, the movie never asserts or even mentions the Savior whose love is the only love capable of bringing the dead to eternal life. True, left to itself, the movie presents a romanticist worldview, where love and warm fuzzies (spirit without truth) is portrayed as sufficient. It’s not. I know that.
But if I could have that whole audience’s attention for just a few moments, I would love the opportunity to explain the walking dead are indeed brought to life by love, the love of Jesus upon the Cross – that I am one who was dead and without hope, but found my eyes opened, my pulse quickened and an eternal life granted in the Savior.
And if I was a youth pastor whose teens had just flocked to the most recent Hollywood romantic comedy this past weekend, this movie would give me that opportunity. And that’s why I’m willing to rejoice over a film like, believe it or not, “Warm Bodies.”
- “Warm Bodies,” rated PG-13, contains about 25 profanities and obscenities, some used for comic effect.
- The film contains some minor sexuality, including a kiss, some leg and cleavage, a male character shirtless in the shower and one scene in particular, where the female lead disrobes and is seen in bra and panties from the back.
- The movie is fairly heavy on violence, as the zombies and humans (and skeletal “boneys”) are at war, with gunshots, zombie bites and so forth. A fair amount of blood is seen, but rarely splayed across the screen, though there is some “gross” content, such as a zombie peeling his cheek off, zombies munching on bits of brains and so forth. While not as heavy and disgusting as most in the zombie genre, it’s still present.
- The movie contains no occult content (save for the zombies and boneys themselves, though these are explained by the film as a natural result of some sort of viral infection) and no religious content save for the line, “God speed, and God bless America.”