Monday, May 23, 2011

Movie Reviewed - 28 Weeks Later

I'm a fan of a good zombie movie. However, 28 Weeks Later (and its predecessor 28 Days Later) are not zombie movies, because the "monsters" in the movie are not zombies. They're "infected," people with normal human capabilities but whose minds are overthrown, utterly consumed with rage towards everyone and everything.

In the original (a very well put together film), we saw London ravaged by the disease, and learned that all of Great Britain was virtually leveled by the infected. The sequel moves us forward several months, after it's believed that the disease has been eradicated. The United States military is sent in to reclaim the country, and eventually civilians are permitted to re-settle. Of course, something goes wrong, and the disease breaks out again.

The main difference for me between Days and Weeks is that Days was fresh, creative, and had some interesting characters, while Weeks was simply a re-hash of the original story. Perhaps the most distinct representation of this was the CONSTANT use of the main theme song from the original film. The song has a haunting tone and was one of the things that really made the original movie, but it just feels trite in the sequel.

One of the mechanisms that these movies (and many other modern horrors/thrillers) rely on is the idea that while monsters are scary, humans can be just as scary. The first few times, it was compelling. But after a hundred different scenarios where good guys turn bad, it becomes too predictable. And I think the writing gets a little lazy; you don't get the buildup of frustration, anxiety, and hopelessness that might actually prompt the panic that would precipitate a "turn." And to be honest, the concept that the military are so easily prone to villainy is getting a little old.

People love putting numbers on opinions, so let's move on to a rating. I've talked previously about how I don't love a 5 star scale, because in that scale, 3 stars equates to "I have no opinion on this movie." Three stars is dead center, and doesn't offer a recommendation, which is fine for your own ratings, but useless when you're trying to offer advice to others.

So, I'm going to go with a 10-point scale, ten points being reserved for elite films (High Fidelity, The Shawshank Redemption, etc), and one point being reserved for the most utterly awful films (Meet the Spartans). It gives us plenty of room to differentiate between good films, very good films, and great films, and it's an even number, so there's no dead-center number that means nothing. Anything six or above, I recommend, anything five or below, I don't.

So, back to this movie. It took a little while to get going, but the story was entertaining enough in the context of being a basic thriller. I didn't think much of the script, and the characters are mostly bland, but the actors do well enough to keep your attention. As long as you're willing to accept a few obviously inaccurate situations (like why wasn't the wife under constant military supervision? the husband can just wander in?), it's a tense, aggressive, and enjoyable movie. But if you didn't like the first one, there's no way this one is going to do it for you.

The Last Word - I endorse it, but barely.

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