28 Weeks Later (R)
Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Kimball's Twin Peak, Tinseltown
Audiences hoping to experience thrills similar to those of Danny Boyle's original 28 Days Later would do better to re-watch that flawed virus-infection shocker than to endure its halfhearted follow-up.
With its enormous plot holes, indistinct swipes at social satire and a wayward emphasis on feeble child characters, 28 Weeks Later isn't just a bad movie. It's a cut-and-paste example of how movie sequels are predictably inferior to their ancestors.
Seven months after the last Rage Virus victim dies of starvation in London, the U.S. Army controls the empty city's quarantined district. Here, adolescent siblings Tammy (Imogen Poots) and Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton) reunite with their father Don (Robert Carlyle) after he narrowly escapes a marauding band of diseased zombies an attack that ostensibly takes the life of the children's mother, Alice (Catherine McCormack). But Alice has actually endured undetected, thanks to a genetic immunity that may provide an antibody against the insidious Rage microbe.
There's a notable lack of urgent discovery in the beginning minutes of 28 Weeks Later, in spite of its thundering goth-metal musical score. Newbie writer-director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, assigned the task of continuing Boyle's vision, makes no attempt at matching the fast-twitch blast of graphic energy that exploded from the first film's opening sequence.
Instead, here, a group of civilians hides quietly around a dinner table inside a boarded-up farmhouse. Don and Alice retreat to an upstairs bedroom when viral automatons invade the dark crevices of the house to bite and spew blood on the uninfected civilians. Don jumps out a second-story window abandoning his wife in the process before escaping in a motorboat whose blades chew at the tainted flesh of his spastic attackers.
The lead-up seems to promise the perspective of an omega man's attempt to escape inevitable doom. But the plot veers off into a militarized London overseen by U.S. Army commander Gen. Stone (Idris Elba), where Don's children join their traumatized father in a refugee compound that seems more like an internment camp.
Never mind that the children effortlessly skip out of the U.S. Army's "secure zone" to gather possessions from their home, where they discover their mother alive, if unwell. The movie doesn't care about believability or cohesion. "You want a sequel we've got a sequel," is the prevailing attitude here.
Not that the gore is completely ignored it isn't. The most visually arresting moment comes in the form of an exceptionally climatic scene that seems lifted from Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's Grindhouse. When a helicopter pilot notices an approaching group of zombies on the ground, he tilts his helicopter at a 125-degree angle and uses his chopper blades in a literal sense, slicing heads, torsos and limbs a go-go. Unfortunately, the scene only prevails to point out the lesser quality of 28 Weeks Later as compared to Grindhouse, where at least there's an atmosphere of cinematic pleasure present.
A turning point finally comes when Army Ranger Sgt. Doyle (Jeremy Renner) disobeys Gen. Stone's order to fire on civilians after the quarantine is broken. Unfortunately, it's little more than a last-ditch attempt to bait the audience into a third continuation of more of the same.
Judging from this psychology, humankind really is staring into an abysmal future. Enjoy the decline.