*. “Even better than the original,” wrote Peter Hammond in Maxim (he’s quoted on the front of the DVD). Well, says I to myself, that shouldn’t be too hard. 28 Days Later was an overrated mess. I mean, all they’d really need is a better script . . .
*. Didn’t happen.
*. As you may know by now, I have a thing against screenplays that don’t make sense. Hitchcock famously derided people who looked for implausibilities in a film, and this is something I’ve never been able to forgive him for. Why shouldn’t a story make sense? Why shouldn’t the events unfold in a plausible manner?
*. You start to notice little things right away. Why does that house look so run down and patched together on the inside, when it appears to be fine on the outside? And is that what English people call a “wee cottage”? Then, when the zombies (I call them zombies) attack, how do they tear it apart like it’s a house of straw? Why are there suddenly so damn many zombies running around out in the middle of nowhere? Why are the people inside so concerned about sealing the house up so no light can get out when they’ve got a fire going in the wood stove so presumably anyone for miles around can see smoke coming out of the chimney?
*. These, however, are niggling little things. Two really big things, however, bothered me so much, and made the story so unbelievable, that they pretty much sank the movie for me.
*. First of all, how is it possible for the two kids to just scamper out of the green zone that easily? Never mind the absurdity of their motivation (they want to go home so they can pick up some of their stuff!), if they can walk out like that in broad daylight then how secure is District One?
*. Then there’s Don’s trip to see his wife in quarantine. I understand he’s a caretaker with a triple-A pass card, but surely that wouldn’t mean he’d have access to the lab they’re holding a highly dangerous medical specimen in. And again there’s the absurd motivation . . . he’s doing all this just to get a kiss?
*. While on the subject of stupidity I guess I’ll throw in the helicopter scene. If you read around you’ll find a lot of discussion over whether it would have been “really possible” to fly a helicopter nose-down at a crowd of people and cut them into pieces like this. Personally, I don’t think so. Maybe in theory, but the pilot would have lost control of the helicopter flying that low at that angle and taking that much damage to the blades. He would have crashed for sure.
*. OK, one more. Why, when they put the city into code red lockdown, do they think it’s also a good idea to kill all the lights? Just wondering.
*. Different writers and director (though Boyle and Garland did make contributions). And yet it’s a very similar movie. Unfortunately, that’s not a good thing. As with 28 Days Later all the good stuff is at the start and then it gets very, very stupid.
*. Also carried over from the earlier film is the same fast editing, handheld camera work, different film speeds, and jerky stop-motion looking movement. A lot of the movie also takes place in the dark or with flashing lights, so what it all adds up to is that I basically can’t tell what the hell is happening most of the time. I’m an old guy, and feeling older all the time. But I wonder how young you have to be able to follow shit like this.
*. On the plus side, they really do those shots of a deserted, desolated London well.
*. How bad do we feel for Alice? She runs back into the room to get the kid after Don specifically tells her not to, then immediately begins screaming at Don to save her stupid ass. Your call, woman.
*. Imogen Poots is a model and looks like a model. She has that alien look that models have. Her nose could be a weapon, and her normal eyes look scarier than the people infected with the Rage virus.
*. Mackintosh Muggleton (which, incredibly, sounds even more made up than “Imogen Poots”) seems to spend most of the movie trying to keep his beautiful hair out of his eyes. No, I didn’t like these kids much at all.
*. What is it with Spaniards and zombies? That country has given us the producer/director combo for this movie, all those wretched Tombs of the Blind Dead efforts, Jorge Grau’s The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, and more recently the Rec films. This seems like national overrepresentation.
*. London. Again. Because if you’re looking to re-introduce the native population of England to that island the place to start is right at the heart of its biggest city.
*. “The U.S. army is responsible for your safety.” Don’t worry, you’ll be safe in the “green zone.” I wonder if there was a political message in that. Something to do with Iraq maybe?
*. Another zombie movie which calls into question family loyalty. Dad was right to run away and leave mom. Sneaking back in to see her when she’s in quarantine is, of course, unfathomably stupid. And taking the boy to France at the end so he could infect the rest of Europe wasn’t a good move either. On the DVD commentary it’s said that “what is truly original in this movie is to put the focus on the family.” I agree that this is the focus, well past the point of it being a fault, but this is something zombie movies have been stressing since Night of the Living Dead, when Johnny comes back for Barbra. Family is toxic, a mortal threat to you and everyone else.
*. You know how often a push start will actually start a car? Not often. Never worked for me. My father had some luck doing it with tractors. It helps if you’re going downhill. You have to get it going faster than the car is here.
*. They really shoehorned that night vision sequence in there at the end, didn’t they? No excuse for that at all, and it drags that section of the movie down.
*. Don and Alice just don’t add up. Why does she return to her house? Would that have been the safe thing to do? Why is she so silent after being captured? Why doesn’t she talk to anyone, try to get information out of them as to what is going on? Then, when Don comes to her, does she want to infect him? Or is she too stupid not to know what is going to happen?
*. Then there’s Don. Instead of becoming a raving maniac like the other people infected with the virus he seems to quite methodically hunt down his children, tracking them and picking his moments to strike. There’s no consistency at all. And how is he able to see so well in the dark at the end when everyone else is blind? After a while you just get sick of trying to figure it out.
*. I really love John Murphy’s “In the House — In a Heartbeat” music, but it only belongs at the beginning here. It’s the kind of score that can be overused.
*. The loss of containment made me think of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. Which, as it happens, was the Apes movie that was basically remade as Rise of the Planet of the Apes in 2011. Is there a fear of urban revolution in the air? A British or North American Spring? Occupy Wall Street was only a few years away.
*. I like how they decide to fire bomb District One in such a spectacular fashion and . . . there’s no point to it because the zombies have already broken out. But boy does it look good.
*. Of course Don manages to survive the fire bombing by ducking around the corner of a building. Brilliant! Why did nobody else think of that?
*. I don’t see why Doyle figures the sniper shooting at his small group is “panicked and no marksman.” He does manage to shoot that mirror out of Doyle’s hand, which is pretty darn good.
*. Yes, I’m back nagging at all the little things that don’t add up. I didn’t like the movie. They spent millions of dollars on a ramshackle script that hung the cast out to twist in the wind. Could another instalment be any worse? We have yet to see.