Sunday, May 4, 2008

28 Weeks Later

I quite enjoyed 28 Days Later. It's a zombie movie that's not a zombie movie. In this world it's not about the dead rising, it' s about a virus that turns people into rage-filled assailants. This curates a different theme from the normal shambling hordes (even compared to those movies that do have fast zombies). The story is unveiled in an interesting way too, with the events of the movie happening well after the initial outbreak. You usually don't expect mystery from a zombie flick, but 28 Days Later delivers. Thoroughly enjoyed it, and highly recommend it to anyone with the stomach for the thrills and gore.

So I decided to check out its sequel: 28 Weeks Later. And I'm decided more conflicted about this one. With one hand it makes bold statements and presents interesting scenarios, while with the other hand it frustrates me to no end with people making stupid decisions.

This movie takes place after the Infected have died of starvation and Great Britain is being reclaimed. The United States military is securing an area of London, incinerating any possible remnants of the virus, and slowly reintroducing the citizens that had escaped the outbreak. It's an interesting setting with lots of possibilities. Well, as far as moviemaking goes there's only one possibility (another outbreak), but you know what I mean.

I don't take any offense to the core events that unfold after this, but the details of how they came to pass drive me nuts. I don't like movies where the world is saved by the actions of one child's, nor do I like movies where one child's actions damn the entire world (although the latter is far more likely). There are too many key moments in 28 Weeks Later where everything goes to crap because of something stupid. There's no guard looking over the potentially infected mother; the civilians are frantically relocated to an unsecure location; nobody tells the kids nor their eventual caretakers that they might be different. These events unfold for stupid reasons, when perfectly good reasons could have been given with just a few more minutes of footage. There are guards posted over the mother, but they get distracted or just plain overtaken; There's a proper heavily-drilled procedure for locking down the civilians but something else goes wrong and the protection is compromised. Blah, blah, blah - it's not hard to switch the blame here from stupid people to something more reasonable. Yes, I realize that there are people out there making dumb decision that just might destroy us all, but I don't think that makes a good movie. That just gets you cursing that the screen, rolling your eyes, and saying "well I wouldn't have done that."

Despite these faults, the movie does manage to make some bold statements. It's not easy to get a viewer to sympathize with the military opening up on innocents, but in this movie you totally do. There's a theme throughout the movie of various people making sacrifices for the greater good. The ballsy thing about the movie is that these actions cause the end of all civilization as we know it. In other words, compassion and heroism not only leads to failure, but repercussions on an epic scale. It is by no means your standard zombie movie message, and it'll keep your brain churning well after the movie is over.

I'm finding that the movies in this genre I like best are the ones with smart people making smart decisions in a difficult situation. That doesn't guarantee success for them. That's a good message: the right choices don't always lead to success. Saying that dumb choices lead to failure is a worthless message. I liked the original Dawn of the Dead because it was a story about people trying to carve out a life for themselves in a horrible situation. You watched what they did and though "hmmm, that's an interesting idea - I wonder how it'll work out." You cared for the characters because on some level you could relate to them.

Now I'm not saying that 28 Weeks Later is a bad movie. It's not. It's has an interested setting and premise, it's well executed, and it'll keep you thinking afterwards. But there were some serious lapses in storytelling that almost ruined the experience for me. Almost. I would still take another ride through this world again 28 Months Later or whatever, but this time no freaking kids, okay?

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