Thursday, 10 May 2007

28 Weeks Later (2007)

You'll feel like running off to the exit in this overlong, pretentious, and uncreative sequel

28 hours after the movie screening, my mind is still in a rage against the sequel to Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later, which reworked the zombie movie genre by introducing fast-moving ghouls. Anything to save a genre slipping into self-parody, I say... it was getting too difficult to take seriously the idea of lurching, drooling monsters moaning "Brraaaaaaains, braaaaaaains". While scientific, medical explanations of zombies in horror movies aren't the new thing, 28 Days Later succeeded because Boyle cross-fertilised the horror elements of a bloody, fast moving epidemic (say, Outbreak) with rapid, fast moving zombies that just pop out of nowhere, both brought together by a light touch of civilisational collapse (12 Monkeys).

But look at 28 Weeks Later. For all the trendsetting that went into its predecessor, the sequel has nothing new to offer, much less a justification for its own existence. The story, essentially, fast forwards audiences 28 weeks into the future of the first movie, where thankfully the zombie epidemic has washed out, and a US-led NATO force is coordinating the reconstruction of the United Kingdom, beginning with the city of London. Ditching the original director, writer, and cast, 28 Weeks Later offers more of the same: a carbon copy of the infection narrative of the original, with the epidemic breaking out from an accident, causing hoards of infected victims to run amok in the city. The dizzy handheld videocam technique from the first movie is back, as is the emo rock soundtrack. This time round, the US Army will clean up the infection, but in a brutal yet logical manner - killing the infected and anyone who could be infected - but for some reason, the irony of this new development is not developed or exploited to any emotional extent at all.

It's as though the new director thinks that "more of the same" is equivalent to "great movie" - disjointed videocam sequences in the sequel go on for so long that they could create a massive headache, while the emo rock soundtrack that is the calling card of Danny Boyle is duly recreated here. Not only does this movie play like a carbon copy of its predecessor, it also looks and sounds like it too. But wait, the problem is far greater than you think. It's not just that 28 Week Later is a note for note remake; it's that the movie is a poor knockoff of its sire, but with an inferior script, cast, director, and cinematographer. The script does not have anything new to warrant the existence of a sequel. Worse still, due to the ineptness of its writeres, the new cast lacks the emotional depths and horrors that the original cast exhibited and merely serves as emergency zombie food supples; while the movie lurches from one obvious set piece to another without any justification aside from "this will look good on the big screen" - there isn't any other reason why there would be a long motorcycle ride on the empty streets of London (which appeared just for a few seconds in the original film), why the survivors would make a pitstop at an abandoned carnival, or end up making a rendezvous with a helicopter in the middle of a stadium. It doesn't make sense, but since it looks good on the big screen, the script pushes the poor characters to these destinations without rhyme or reason.

It's not to say that this movie is entirely without merit. 28 Weeks Later would have been more promising if the director actually followed up on his own half-hearted comparisons of the US-led reconstruction of the UK/London with the real life, incompetent and mendacious reconstruction of Iraq/Baghdad, or the parallels between the army mowing down innocents and zombies alike and a paranoid, triggerhappy US Army in Iraq shooting down civilians and terrorists alike. 28 Weeks Later would have been promising too, if the director dropped the half-hearted political references and made fuller use of the stadium, the public squares, and the carnivals to perhaps make a dig at football louts, urban crowds, and shopping mobs, as zombies. But apparently, your $28 dollars (two tickets, drinks, and popcorn) only go as far as funding a movie, and not the creativity behind the movie.

On one hand, one dreads the fact that Danny Boyle is talking about making a third "28" zombie movie. It's like we need a one-trick pony trilogy. On the other, one hopes that with the original director back, audiences can look forward to something entirely different once more.

First published at incinemas on 10 May 2007

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