Monday, October 19, 2015

28 Weeks Later

Year 7, Day 292 - 10/19/15 - Movie #2,177

BEFORE: Now it's 12 days until Halloween, and under two months until "Star Wars: Episode 7".  I can feel the end of the year approaching quickly, and in fact tickets go on sale tonight for the new Star Wars film, so I'm thinking I have to buy 5 or so tickets for opening night, because I'm sure I can find four people to go with me.  That's my real holiday, traditionally when there's a new Star Wars film I take the day off from work to wait in line - but that's usually in May, and this year it will be in December, so I suppose there's the chance of a blizzard or something.

"28 Days Later" was directed by Danny Boyle, director of "Trainspotting", "Slumdog Millionaire" and that 2nd Steve Jobs film - so it seems appropriate that "Trainspotting" is the link between last night's film and its sequel.  Stuart McQuarrie was in "Trainspotting", and so was Robert Carlyle (last seen in "The Beach"), who appears in tonight's film.

THE PLOT:  Six months after the rage virus was inflicted on the population of Great Britain, the US Army helps to secure a small area of London for the survivors to repopulate and start again. But not everything goes to plan.

AFTER: I imagine that the role of a screenwriter is something akin to the role of an artist - the white page is a blank canvas, on which any story can be written or painted.  But really, complete creative freedom is just an illusion.  A painter doing a still life, for example, is hampered by the image of the thing he's painting - his painting has to look enough like that object for it to be recognized as such, or else the viewer might question what it is.  Even a landscape artist needs to follow rules, even if creating an imaginary landscape - the horizon has to go in a certain place, trees need to grow straight up, and look like trees, and the sky needs to be one of only a few colors that we associate with the sky in real life.  So there is artistic freedom, but only within a certain set of parameters.  (I know, there is abstract painting, which has no rules, but work with me here...)

For a screenwriter, I imagine his process working in a similar fashion - he's free to write whatever he wants, provided that it falls within a certain set of parameters.  There's a hero, there are villains, things need to look really bleak about 10 minutes before the ending, but everything eventually works out for the best, either through a twist or an unexpected salvation.  Within specific genres there are further rules - in romances you've got love triangles, in sports films you've got the come-from-behind victory in the last quarter, and in spy films you've got gadgets that save the day and villains who lay their plans for world domination out in great detail.  

Horror films are no different, and zombie films specifically have a number of rules.  Zombies walk slowly, moan quietly and eat brains whenever they can.  This "28 Days/28 Weeks" series, however, throws all the rules out the window.  Here zombies RUN, and they run FAST.  They don't moan, but they shake and scream with rage - and they don't eat brains, but they bite people and then vomit blood on to them, which seems even worse.  

But "28 Days Later" still worked as a narrative, because they focused on a few people, and gave one the lead male hero role, and even though he had to do some nasty things fighting zombies and soldiers, he still was essentially an action-based superhero.  You can believe in him, root for him, and still be fairly confident he's going to make it to the closing scene.  Well, the sequel throws those rules out the window also.  There's no one lead character here, it plays out more like a series of successive vignettes in the zombie-occupied London neighborhood, and you can probably guess why each character who takes the lead in part of the story isn't available to do the same in the next part.  

So the storyline sort of jumps from person to person - this person is the focus for a while, then that person is, then the next person steps up to become important.  It's jarring in a way, because it's not what we're used to (like Brad Pitt in "World War Z", who remains the hero throughout) but it also is somewhat innovative, and perhaps more reflective of the nature of the zombie attack.  You can't get too attached to any one person, because you'd just be setting yourself up for disappointment.  But I can't decide if this is a valid method of storytelling, like creating an abstract painting, since it doesn't seem to follow the established rules of cinema, namely that we want to see our heroes succeed and overcome obstacles.  

How am I supposed to tell the difference, for example, between a story written by someone trying to defy my expectations, and a story written by an incompetent person who didn't know about the expectations in the first place?  Take any quest movie, like "The Lord of the Rings" or "Titanic".  There's usually a clear goal - like "take the ring to Mount Doom and destroy it" or "find a way to get off the sinking ship", and if some people succeed in this quest the audience feels good, but if they don't manage to do it, the audience may feel like their time has been wasted.  I'm just sayin'.

Also starring Rose Byrne (last seen in "This Is Where I Leave You"), Jeremy Renner (last seen in "Avengers: Age of Ultron"), Idris Elba (ditto), Harold Perrineau (last seen in "Zero Dark Thirty"), Catherine McCormack (last seen in "Magic in the Moonlight"), Imogen Poots (last seen in "Me and Orson Welles"), Mackintosh Muggleton.

RATING: 3 out of 10 "safe rooms"

No comments:

Post a Comment