Monday, 21 May 2007

Carnivorous, Stinging, Walking Plants re-Invade London! Wait, Today They Look Like Zombies! - A Review of 28 Weeks Later

by Edwin Hesselthwite

I have recently visited the cinema for the long awaited (by me) sequel to one of my recent favourite films, '28 Days Later'. The sequel with the silly title was receiving mixed reviews from reviewers whom I normally trust so I it was with a touch of ambivalence that I rested in the surprisingly comfortable chair in a good central position and waited for the film to start.

Before that moment I was treated to a full preview for Die Hard 4.0, which I have to say, looked like the absolute pinnacle of mindless fun and appears to have done for the ‘geriatric action hero’ genre what Matrix did for car chases and kung fu!

That preview was the highlight of the whole experience.

'28 Weeks Later' is unrelentingly dire, drab and awful. God it’s bad. Now don’t get me wrong, it has its moments. I’m certainly not going to attack it on the basis of a few continuity errors (“…we know it can’t species jump…”, er, wasn’t the original carrier a chimp?) or the inaccurate geography of London as some have done. The feel of the abandoned Capitol was as brilliantly rendered here as in the original and as the two child characters (blowed if I can remember names or pretend to care) cross the Tower bridge on a moped there is a genuine feel that the World has stopped outside the cinema (although in my case it was rather supplanted by a fear of ambulatory plants but, hey, it’s a better story!).

No the failings of this film are two-fold, no wait, three-fold… er well actually could be four. Tell you what, I’ll just try and explain why I didn’t like it.

Firstly the NATO coalition forces, that are exclusively American and appear to have no command structure and are excitingly incompetent, are just characterless clones despite the fact that two of them are main characters! There is no attempt to fill in the story behind their presence or slant the audience in one direction or the other as to whether their presence is beneficial or not. Which considering the final results of their actions and behaviour in the closing sequence is just unforgivable. A beautiful opportunity to bait and switch the audience was missed here. You end up feeling just a little confused as to w
ho the real bad guys are, and not in a moral dilemma sense of the first film either.

Secondly, the characterisation of one of the ‘zombies’ just does not work. They’re mindless. That’s the whole point. So the fact that the same one keeps turning up at key moments at the right time spoils the whole feel of a horde of screaming monsters. It implants the notion that they are more intelligent that previously believed
which then destroys the mythos of the RAGE as previously created.

Now the camera work. Oh god, I get a headache just thinking about the opening sequence. I understand that highly fragmented and fast moving Blurrovision
type shots are meant to convey panic and fear but there are limits. They should have handed out motion sickness drugs with the popcorn.

My main problem with this film is that it felt like a missed chance to maybe make the defining trilogy of this genre. The first film is brilliant, flawed, but brilliant. The second is formulaic, flawed and disappointing. Watch it, I would suggest, but do so on DV
D and save yourself a few bob.

Oh well, there is always Die Hard to look forward to I suppose.

*As is made clear in the tags, this is a Pritchard Buckminster article that has, due to technical problems, been posted by Edwin.

Nobody does it better, makes me feel sad for the rest


Edwin Hesselthwite said...

Excellent review Pritchard. Still can't decide whether I'm going to see it or not tho, since I've heard the absolute opposite from multiple sources. I think this film really polarises opinion.

I am wary of blurrovision type movies tho, I remember the first time I saw Armageddon and came out of it thinking "Please god can someone stop the world spinning, I need some Dramamine". The problem is, one persons sickeningly motionsickness inducing movie is someone else's greatest movie ever, people like exactly what the others hate.

Even if this one failed, I am glad they have made it. Britain is becoming a major league name in smart Horror/SF (Sunshine and this both out in the same month!). I love all this Post-Apoc in England, Zombies, Dragons, Triffids...

Charles Pooter said...

I liked it. By the way, what problems did you have with the geography of London?

Pritchard Buckminster said...

Couldn’t agree more – Sunshine was a masterpiece of hard core sci-fi and beautiful ambiguity. My real problem with this film is the sense of a missed opportunity. There is simply nothing new – no new ideas, no new characters, no questions asked or answered. Plus the gore elements seem really tacked on as if they suddenly realised it was a zombie film and it needed to be an 18. This exact same film would have been massively improved by taking out 10 minutes of pointless blood ‘n’ guts and replacing it with some character development. Use a bit of the family fortune, Edwin, go see it and let me know what you think.

Charles - I have no idea, was quoting from comments other reviewers have made. Apparently the speed at which they crossed whole areas of London suggested they had a wormhole filled map!