It’s an unwritten rule that by and large, the majority of movie sequels are inferior to the original. Obviously the exceptions to this rule are loud and proud in their dismissal of it (Aliens, Terminator 2, House Party 2…….. ). As far as 28 Weeks Later is concerned that rule is both equally embraced and dismissed. Continuing on from our last post – we look at what this film did for the 28 Days Later franchise.
SPOILERS! (Guys, it’s been out since 2007) This follows on from our review of 28 Days Later
Released in 2007 (COUGH) the film largely follows Don, a survivor of the initial infection but shifts to the perspective of his children Tammy and Andy who join him in the repopulated safe-zone in London. Infection ensues!
The opening scenes of this film feel like they are lifted straight out of the original in visuals and theme at least. Shot in a stylistically similar and graphically kindred fashion this section reeks of an impending jump-scare, which the filmmakers draw out for as long as humanly possible. It is brilliantly tense.
In this section they have delivered more of a classic Zombie Horror feel (Although technically not Zombies – Lets not get into this again, please), with shots of windows bursting open and arms bursting through clawing viciously. This harrowing sequence is completed by the musical suite (and unofficial franchise theme tune) from the first film – the haunting ‘In the house – in a heartbeat‘ by John Murphy which frames the atmosphere of these scenes thunderously.
The emotional plot is consistent throughout this film but is entirely inadequate. As a viewer I felt more aligned with Don and his guilt over leaving his wife. The audience is forced into the moral dilemma along with Don, and to judge him on his decision to leave his wife. They portray him as a coward and set him up as spineless. However I for one stand with Don. Realistically he couldn’t have saved them. Alice knew what was at stake and went back for the kid. Going up against one infected, unarmed, is a lost cause never mind a bunch of them in a confined space. And it’s worth noting that in the previous sequence Don was fighting the infected off with a crowbar whilst the rest of the survivors ran. No. Not today. I’m clearing the mans name on that sin at least. JUSTICE FOR DON!
By now we’re comfortable with our protagonist. That’s Don. He ran out on his wife Alice when they got overrun by infected. There’s a slicker and altogether more commercial feel to the film by the time two more of the characters are introduced as we arrive at the London (District 1) staging grounds : Sniper – Hawkeye (A fresh-faced Jeremy Renner) and Pilot – Augustus Hill (An able-bodied Harold Perrineau).
Renner played it straight up the middle with his portrayal of a noble man conflicted at his current predicament. Rose Byrne spent a good portion of the film leaning on him both physically and in performance. A solid gold presentation from Robert Carlisle before and after he gets infected, and goes full Rage-Begbie. Infected Begbie. INFEGBIE! It’s fair to say the tone of the film shifts dramatically along with the narrative when he becomes infected. It also shifts the behavior of the infected as they shown to be more cannibalistic whereas before they were just shown to be violent in any way possible.
Personally if I was perched on a rooftop and my commanding officer said : “Only target infected” he’d get a swift “aye, dead on mate” in reply. “How am I supposed to do that? Run down and ask them?”. In all fairness to that scene it would make a solid mission for a computer game adaption.
The film falls down during some of the more CG-heavy scenes. It all looks a bit Sliders when they run out of the tunnel and the fireball is chasing them. Helicopter cutting up the infected could have been the coolest piece of splattergasm cinema ever undertaken but the CG let it down so badly. It looked like an old Atari game. This is also painfully noticeable in the gas and bullets impacting the ground. Presumably the FX guy was told “a big puff of smoke for each”.
Toward the end of the film, the night vision escalator scene comes off comedic and awkward – the clumsiness of the characters stepping over bodies – when really it should have been the most weighted and meaty section of the film.
The scene in Wembley with the helicopter comes across as unresolved. Essentially it runs as : “Where’s Hawkeye?”
“Right well, get in then……………………………Is anyone infected?”
The pick up shots at the end where we see the Eiffel tower are a great nod to a potential 3rd film but aesthetically don’t really fit coherently with the rest of the films framing. thematically more akin to the orignal.
Plotholes in this film are arguable. Dons AAA card gets him full access to the labs (and whilst I understand the definition of Access All Areas – this is essentially a military facility – what possible need in his day-to-day role would he have to access a research lab? Maybe i’m naive and they hand those out like Skittles. If so, they deserve what they got). Aside from that – no one is guarding arguably the most valuable live specimen in history? Through clever editing and unreliable POV it is nearly implied that Don is stalking the kids. He follows them as they try to flee and there’s even a sequence where Andy has a sort of “Is that my infected Dad standing there?” moment. I’ll let the basis for this slide as this could be a nice nod to a potential genetic deviation or a form of evolution in the virus itself.
Is that a subtle Alan Partridge Swans-eating-beef-burgers reference?
The plot (as far as I’m aware) for this film, originally 29 days later, was going to follow a team of SAS soldiers tasked with saving the Queen or something. Already it conjures up neat advertising slogans of GOD SAVE THE QUEEN. In the end they decided it didn’t really work – there needed to be more progression in the world plot for a sequel to be worth exploring. Not that it was the most perfect film but having watched it recently I feel like World War Z could have been a good blueprint for 28 Months Later. The focus on finding the cure to the infection and rebuilding. Is it too late to repurpose that film? it is? oh.
I think the real missing element of this film compared to its predecessor is the charm. The first film was plucky. It was gritty, sure but it was thrashing around in its own gore so violently that nothing could get close enough to properly pin it down. What we have in 28WL is an Americanized, glossy take on the idea that is preoccupied with the virus and its effects on a pandemic scale. The first film succeeded because of the level of focus it concentrated on the characters themselves, their thoughts and feelings, hopes and dreams but most importantly their fears.
If 28 Days Later was a pure and special lover then 28 Weeks Later is a drunken one-night stand. A pleasurable mistake. This film is nasty. It provides us characters to connect with and then takes them away in the most cruel ways possible. There’s no heart to this movie. Sure it serves as a great zombie-type film, relentlessly action-fueled but it doesn’t have the personality of the 28DL.
Closing thoughts: Great genre flick, solid popcorn action. I’ve never quite understood the fanaticism around Idris Elba. Am I missing something? Mackintosh Muggleton (Andy) has THE best name.