by RISHI AGRAWAL
Inevitably, a sequel has to be compared to the original film. I will do my best to explain the deficiencies of 28 Weeks Later, but the biggest problem is that it is not 28 Days Later, an original and exciting film that was more concerned with character development than making a conventional horror movie. It is always difficult for a sequel to live up to the original, but I feel like everything that I liked about 28 Days Later was compromised in this picture.
The basic premise is simple. The rage virus has been unleashed on England, which turns people into bloodthirsty killers. They are, technically speaking, not zombies as they are still alive, but I think the film still falls into the category of a zombie film. The virus is highly contagious and is transmitted through saliva and blood. 28 Days Later was not about the initial spread of the virus, but about a small group of survivors dealing with the aftermath. 28 Weeks Later goes even further forward in time. The zombies have starved to death and, in the absence of the British government or military, the American military is slowly working at reintroducing what’s left of the British population to London.
I should also note that most of the cast and crew have not returned for this second film. Director Danny Boyle and writer Alex Garland both moved into producer positions. Relative newcomer Juan Carlos Fresnadillo was given the task of directing. Cillian Murphy, star of the first film, is gone and instead we have Robert Carlyle. Fortunately, Carlyle is not playing the same character as Murphy. Carlyle plays Don, a man who was able to survive the initial outbreak of the rage virus by holing up in a cottage with other survivors. When zombies overrun the cottage, Don escapes, leaving the other inhabitants, including his wife, at the mercy of the attackers. We run into Don again as England is being repopulated and his children, Tammy (Imogen Poots) and Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton), rejoin their father. The children avoided the virus as they were abroad during the outbreak. But, as expected, the virus has not been eliminated, and it soon spreads through the small populace that has now occupied what is left of London.
The film introduces other characters, but they are almost impossible to sympathize with as we know very little about them other than the broadest characterizations. Some of these characters that we are meant to root for do not even stay alive very long. And that is one of the major problems of this film. It is not about the characters, but about the virus. There is much talk about how the virus is transmitted and whether there is a possible cure for the virus. In the original film, the virus was mainly an impetus to explore the relationships between the characters. Unfortunately, there is almost no relationship between the characters in this sequel as they spend much of the film running from hordes of rampaging zombies, including one zombie in particular who recurs as a villain. Mindless automatons are not always the most sinister opponents.
There are a few genuinely interesting moments. Soon after the virus starts to spread through the populace, snipers are ordered to take out the zombies. Finding that the snipers are not taking out the zombies fast enough, and that they cannot distinguish between the infected and uninfected, they are ordered to execute everyone. The chaos created when the people realize that everyone is a target is palpable and harrowing. In another scene, a medical officer (Rose Byrne) leads the two children through an underground tunnel filled with bodies. The medical officer has night vision goggles, but the children are blind in the darkness, forcing them to try to navigate based on verbal commands.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many scenes like these. Generally, we are faced with a lot of running around and hiding. Then, there are downright laughable moments. In one scene, a helicopter chops through a group of zombies with its blades. This idea is so ridiculous that it was used as an over-the-top comedic moment in Grindhouse. Besides, I have a slight problem with a film that casually splatters blood everywhere when a single drop of the blood of the infected is enough to transmit the virus. Knowing this, I also think that the characters would be careful about embracing those covered in zombie blood. But apparently a hug negates the effect of the virus.
The other major criticism I have is, while the original film felt epic in scope, this one felt small and insular. Early on in 28 Days Later, the characters have a definite goal: to reach a blockade that is transmitting a radio signal. While survival was an issue, it was not the only driving force in the film. 28 Weeks Later is simply about survival in the end. Though the film briefly presents other ideas and subplots, they are either left unresolved or rendered irrelevant.