Tuesday, September 8, 2009

28 Weeks Later (2007): Another Movie About People Being Stupid

If you have been putting off seeing "28 Weeks Later" for the last few years, thinking one of these weekends you will finally get to it, then I have good news for you--you can go ahead and cross it off your list. You've seen it already. You might not think you have. You might say, "Wait, no, I know that I haven't seen it". You would be wrong, though. You've seen it. It's just another movie about people being stupid.

Sure, the details are a bit different. Perhaps you haven't seen any other movies with zombie-like characters, in which people do things that just get them killed. Which of course they deserve because they were being stupid. And perhaps you haven't seen "Babel", which is certainly a movie about people being stupid, but in places like Morocco, instead of England. But one thing I know for sure--if you have seen any quantity of movies in your life that would qualify you as even an occasional fan, the odds are very high that you have seen AT LEAST one movie in which the plot is "people being stupid".

I was sad to find out that was the plot of "28 Weeks Later". I really liked "28 Days Later", the first installment. What a unique and visionary movie that was. How intense. I had a two-hour heart attack during that movie. So many loud, screaming moments in between so many still and haunting moments. Two hours of people thrown head first into an incredible circumstance, trying to make sense of what is happening, and more importantly, stay alive--as we the viewers share in the progression of their experience. Just a triumph in filmmaking.

But this sequel was a HUGE disappointment. FAR too much disbelief had to be suspended. And the whole movie, my disbelief dangled from the ceiling yelling, "Hey! Hey! Hey! Over here!" every time ANYTHING happened in this movie. Even more disappointing was that the plot ended up being "people being stupid", instead of just "oh no, it's happening again! Only now it is because of some reason no one could possibly have predicted!"

Nope. Totally and completely predictable.

It's 28 weeks later, in England, after the rage disease has run its course. Now, the government is moving people back in, EVEN THOUGH RIGHT ACROSS THE THAMES, OVER A BRIDGE YOU AREN'T SUPPOSED TO CROSS, THERE IS AN AREA THAT HASN'T BEEN CLEANED OF DEAD PEOPLE AND POTENTIAL DISEASE YET. Seriously? You couldn't at least keep us in the dark as to how it was going to come back? What was great about the first movie is that what went horribly wrong wasn't brainbashingly obvious in the first ten minutes of the movie.

So, of course that bridge gets crossed, and of course the military brings someone with the disease back into their stronghold, which happens to be a giant apartment complex in which all of the resettlers are living conveniently in one place. And yes, shortly after, things go wrong. What does the military do to secure the situation and prevent an outbreak? Yep, lock all of the resettlers in a parking structure so they can all be easily infected should anything go wrong and an infected person finds his (or her, but in this case, it's his) way to them.

At this point of the movie, what happens next is so ridiculously predictable that I don't really need to say anything about it.

But, one thing worth mentioning happens to be one of the two things I actually liked about this movie. The zombie that turns them all into a roving pack of blood spitting, flesh ripping cataclysm, is our star, Robert Carlyle. Making him the "bad guy" was the only thing about this that wasn't insultingly predictable, or even just insulting.

It's annoying how easy it is to tell who lives and who dies in this film. No, actually, it's insulting.

Oh, and in the opening sequence, we see Carlyle let his wife get killed, and the film makes such a big deal of it through much of the next half hour that it is insultingly obvious the wife is still alive and this is going to come back to bite him in the ass.

(Don't worry, this doesn't spoil anything. It's way too obvious in the film for this to spoil it for you. Unless you don't read, in which case you may or may not have the ability to figure it out from the fore-beating you in the face the filmmakers might have thought was foreshadowing. In that case, you aren't reading this review, so I'm covered on both ends.)

We learn along the way that Carlyle's son has a genetic immunity to the virus that could save humanity. But then, the only person who knows that doesn't bother to tell EVERYONE she meets through much of the rest of the movie, and promptly dies after 45 minutes of knowing this and not making sure that at least one person likely to live knows it. (Man, I forgot I wasn't watching Heroes at times.)

As this whole thing started going down--thousands of resettlers turned zombies running in all directions eating everyone in their path--I couldn't get over the fact that the best contingency plan the military came up with beforehand, should anything go wrong, was to lock everyone in the basement, and when that fails, just unload a whole bunch of artillery on them, and when that doesn't work, firebomb the city area that has been resettled.

This cut way too close to reality for me. Our government, and so many governments in history, have planned this poorly and reacted this underly and ineptly, that I almost couldn't watch this movie to the end--I could just as easily have turned on cable news and gotten a reality that wasn't all that different in many ways.

Herein lies what bugged me about this movie. Don't we get enough bad news of how stupid people call way too many of the shots in the world? Don't we live every single day having to avoid people who don't look before they turn left, or who don't seem to get that when you start preemptive wars in other countries, you aren't winning hearts and minds. We get pummeled every single day with news and direct experience of people testing the envelope of their own lack of reasoning skills. Why do we need two hours more of this in a movie?

I'm not saying movies have to take us away from the awful things of the world, per se. Scary can be good. Happy can be good. Reality can be good. But there's something particular about movies where the plot doesn't move forward without people being insanely stupid, and worse, not learning from their mistakes.

I guess my real question is: Why does this appeal to people? Why do people spend millions of dollars to spread entertainment built on a foundation of human stupidity, only to be paid for in higher returns by people who seem to be demanding human stupidity?

Why do we demand human stupidity?

Rating: John Cougar Mellencamp. It would have been John Tesh, but having the star be a zombie for most of the movie keeps it from being a John Tesh. However, I spent so much of this movie angry at people for being dumb that it probably should get a John Tesh. But then I remember that the opening sequence is actually unbelievably awesome in how it was shot and told (borrowing very much from the first movie) that it keeps its nose just above John Tesh. As we all do.

Photo: Courtesy of Grandpafootsoldier.

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