With the onslaught these past few years of Star Wars trilogies, Harry Potter adaptations and continuing mutant adventures, Hollywood seems to have forgotten that sequels are generally a really bad idea. Franchises like Spider-Man and Harry Potter are often referred to as sequels, but might be more accurately described as continuing sagas or adaptations that are planned for far in advance.
No, the sequels I am talking about, the ones that you really have to watch out for, are the more traditional ones, born not of creativity, but of the first films successful box office haul. Movies that formulaically exploit or aggrandize the very element or quality that made the initial film such a success. Movies such as Fox Atomics 28 Weeks Later.
Six months after the Rage virus decimated the British Isles, as detailed in the first film 28 Days Later, the United Nations initiative, led by the United States Army, lifts quarantine and declares London fit for repopulation. Among the repatriated are two teenagers, Tammy (Imogen Poots) and Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton). Their father, Don (Robert Carlyle), who had not been lucky enough to escape, greets them and details the sad circumstances surrounding their mothers infection and death.
But, much like how Freddy Krueger can never quite seem to stay dead, the Rage virus is not done with London, and manages to make its way back into the refreshed population. Only this time things are worse because not only do the survivors have the zombie-like infected to contend with, but they also must face the United States Army which, fearing global outbreak, quickly switches gears from a force of peace to one of total eradication.
With its contrived plot and conveniences 28 Weeks is in many ways no better or worse than any other George A. Romero zombie-inspired horror movie. Sure, technically these are infected people and not zombies, but the traits are close enough. The film even borrows from the zombie genres standard lapse in logic and plotting, as evidenced by the witless kids wandering restricted military zones; the gross negligence in military security; the senseless rush to violent conclusions; and, my favorite, the propensity to herd dozens of victims into a darkened room ripe for a good old fashioned slaughter.
Trouble is, 28 Days broke horror out of this mold. Director Danny Boyle and writer Alex Garland, for the most part, proved that a zombie movie could be both visceral and intelligent, character driven and intimate. And all that they sought to achieve gets shredded into a bloody pool by the mindless action of 28 Weeks.
Frustratingly, 28 Weeks director Juan Carols Fresnadillo, who co-wrote the screenplay with two others while Boyle and Garland assume dual executive-producer roles, starts the film with an incredibly strong idea. He uses Don and his wife to initially introduce an element of gut wrenching drama that is beautifully punctuated with sonic chaos and invasive ultra-violence. Fresnadillo even manages to resurrect this element halfway through the film with a kiss that is as passionate as it is poisonous.
But in all the parts in between, Fresnadillo fails to keep 28 Weeks afloat.