This is the place where I complain about overrated films. Warning: some posts may contain SPOILERS!

Sunday, January 30, 2005

28 Days Later is overrated

In my last post I complained about a film that had an IMDB rating of 7.2; I shall be doing the same thing today. The film 28 Days Later is overrated, and here's why: it is full of mistakes, plot holes and implausibilities.

First, there is the very nature of the virus in the film: a single drop of blood can infect someone in 20 seconds. Literally, 20 seconds. I've done some rough calculations, and that makes it several times more potent than sarin gas.

Then, there is the development of the virus. In the beginning, the virus was being tested on monkeys by some scientists at Cambridge. Now, why would Cambridge develop such a virus? I mean, if an evil corporation made the virus (like in Resident Evil) then that would make sense because developing viruses is the sort of thing evil corporations do (no doubt in an effort to find a way to conquer the world). But Cambridge is a university. They have no motive for developing a highly contagious virus that turns people into killing machines. What were they planning on doing with it? Use it to infect Oxford to eliminate their competition in that boat race they have every year?

So, anyway, the Cambridge scientists (actually only one appears in the film, but I find it hard to believe that he developed the virus and captured 12 monkeys to experiment on all by himself) are testing their virus on some monkeys in a room with no overhead lighting. Their work environment is awfully dark and barren, but when you're a mad Cambridge scientist I guess that's the sort of environment you prefer. Then some eco-terrorists come and release the infected monkeys. One of the monkeys bites a woman who vomits blood and then becomes an evil zombie (technically the zombies in this film are really just "infected individuals", but for all intents and purposes, they are zombies). This is when the film decides to go 28 days into the future (hence the name).

A man (the protagonist) wakes up in a hospital bed, completely naked. This puzzled me: did some people, in the panic of the outbreak decide to steal his clothes and blankets? Why would they do that? Furthermore, the protagonist should be dead from dehydration. The human body cannot live more than 3 days without water; even if the protagonist could live longer than that because he is using up less water because he was just lying around for 28 days, it has probably been at least 18 days since his IV was changed, so his survival is extremely unlikely. The room the protagonist is in is locked, but someone has kindly left the key in the space between the bottom of the door and the floor (how convenient!). The protagonist is able to stand up and walk around quite easily (too easily, considering the fact that his legs will have undoubtedly atrophied during all the time he spent lying around and not walking). He finds some clothes and drinks a pepsi (apparently that is enough to make up for 4 weeks of no eating; it is interesting to note that while Pepsi and other "alternative" sodas make an appearance in this film, Coke does not) and goes out to explore London.

Now, before we look at the protagonist's journey through London, let's consider the symptoms of the virus (which is called Rage btw). As observed in the opening sequence, the symptoms primarily consist of vomiting blood and biting other people's jugulars. While the protagonist is wandering through London, he does not encounter a single drop of blood, corpse or infected person. 7 million people live in London, and despite continually shouting "hello", the protagonist is not able to attract one of them. It is especially important to note that his shouts do not attract any zombies whatsoever (you'll see why later). He also finds a luxury car that someone has parked in the middle of the street and just left there. Despite the fact that looting must have been widespread during all the chaos and stuff, the car is not stolen; it doesn't even have a scratch or drop of blood on the paint! I almost expected him to find some antique pottery, some rare mint condition stamps (like the ones where the airplane is upside down) or a copy of the Magna Carta lying in the middle of the road too.

Eventually, the protagonist (whose name is Jim) meets two other survivors: a woman called Selena, and a man whose name I forgot because he gets killed two scenes later. The woman says that the last news reports they heard before all communication was lost said that there were outbreaks in Paris and New York; presumably such outbreaks would spread like wildfire in those densely populated cities and would also mean that with the exception of Australia, no major landmass is free of zombies--ie the plague has the potential to destroy 80% of the world. Remember that information for later.

Two scenes after Jim meets the other survivors, they go to Jim's house because he wants to know what happened to his parents (they committed suicide if you're wondering). Then, a zombie (the same type of zombie that didn't hear Jim when he sohuted "hello" 50 times) sees, from a distance, the tiny candle Jim is holding and jumps through the window of the house. There is glass all over the floor, and Jim falls on it. Selena chops down the zombie, and then blood is splattered everywhere. Everyone is covered in blood, but Selena and Jim (who apparently did not get cut by the glass) escape infection. Only the male survivor whose name I forgot is infected, so Selena kills him.

As they walk back to London, the surviving survivors notice one apartment has a bunch of Christmas lights on. They go up the apartment building stairs to that apartment, but some zombies follow them, so the owner of the apartment fights them off with all the riot gear he has. Where he got that riot gear (and what he did with it because it never appears in the movie again) is never explained. The guy who owns the apartment (I forgot his name because he too dies before the end of the movie) mentions that they have no running water. Well, if there's no water, where did the electricity come from? This is never explained, but one theory that comes to mind is a generator. Well, where did the generator come from then? And where did the gas come from? Space is at a premium in a London apartment, and no resident of London, especially not a working-class single parent (he has a daughter called Hannah) like what's-his-name could afford to have a generator and a bunch of gas taking up space in his living room. Furthermore, why they all aren't constantly puking because of the smell of decay is never explained. An apartment building of the size they were in would hold hundreds of people, yet it seems to be absolutely deserted: there are no zombies lurking in the corridors, nor are there dead bodies rotting anywhere.

The next day, the guy shows everybody a radio transmission coming from an army base he picked up on his handheld radio. They decide to leave and go there. Now, when I saw the guy with all of his riot gear, I thought he had been a cop before the plague. But when he reveals that he is a taxi driver, I got confused. Where did he get that riot gear? Do all taxi drivers have a plastic shield, club and full suit of body armor? If they do, I'll certainly think twice before I give my taxi driver a tip of less than 15%.

On their way, they find a grocery store. Its glass doors are unlocked, yet everything in the store is untouched. One would expect looters to plunder it, or people to buy lots of stuff in a panic as zombies attacked. But this store (which obviously had a slow day before all transportation went down because all the shelves are fully stocked) is in mint condition. And also there is power and all the lights are on. Selena is happy because apparently during all those 28 days she could never find a grocery store like this one and had been living on candy bars from smashed open vending machines for four weeks.

Now, I don't know if this is meant to be a touch of realism, but all the survivors are idiots. For example, after they leave the store, they decide to drive through a dark and scary tunnel with all sorts of hazards and stuff. Their car breaks down in the middle of the tunnel (I never would have expected that), and they barely get it fixed in time to escape the zombies who came out of nowhere to create tension. Then, as their car is leaving the tunnel and getting away, the zombies stop running after it. THE ZOMBIES STOP RUNNING! Zombies are supposed to be soulless, relentless, never-stopping hunters who would crawl over to you and bite your foot off if you shot them in the knees and bite you head off if you didn't; they aren't supposed to just stop running and stand there like a couple of lazy extras.

Later, the group stops for gas. Not much happens at the gas station except Jim decides to go into a scary and dark building for no reason at all and Selena (who should know better after having lived in zombie London for a month) just stands there and lets him. In the building, Jim meets and kills a 10 year old zombie boy in exactly the same amount of time it takes the cop/taxi driver to siphon some gas.

After that, they see Manchester. Manchester has been burnt to the ground and is still a mass of explosions and smoke. Bear in mind that earlier in the movie (I forgot to mention this) Selena and the guy she killed saved Jim from some zombies with Molotov cocktails, which they then used to blow up a gas station and the taxi driver also says that there has been no rain for weeks (so any fire started would burn unabated). Why London should remain intact while Manchester gets utterly destroyed is never explained.

Later, they decide to camp out for the night. You might think they would have a watch in case a zombie comes (surely Selena would have figured that out), but they don't. They have a bit of trouble sleeping, so Selena gives them some valium. Great idea. You could be attacked by zombies at any minute, and you choose to put yourselves into a drug induced slumber.

The group finally arrives at the army base. At first it looks deserted, but the guy whose name I've been forgetting for the last 6 paragraphs gets infected by a drop of blood from a corpse that was lying on top of a tower (how that corpse got infected and why it was up there dripping blood is never satisfactorily explained) and all of a sudden soldiers jump out from everywhere and shoot the crap out of him (why those soldiers hid themselves is never explained).

The movie doesn't have too many mistakes after that. The only major one I can think of is when it turns out that the rest of the world isn't infected (apparently zombies are incapable of swimming or walking through the Chunnel) even though we were led to believe it was.

Now, it may seem that I think 28 Days Later is a bad film, but I don't. In fact, I think it was a good film--good, but not great. It had some good characters, a fairly original plot, and some of the conversations made some interesting points about nature and humanity. However, 28 Days Later is held back from greatness because it made mistakes, mistakes that could have been easily fixed had the writer thought out his ideas more, or if the script had undergone another revision or two, or if the director had ordered an extra take.


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2/08/2010 03:06:00 PM

Blogger kev88 said...

Having just stumbled on your piece I tend to agree wholeheartedly. I just watched it again and I find it remarkable that so much praise was lavished on this thing. Don't get me wrong, it was highly watchable and I did enjoy it but so much inane nonsense stuck in my craw. With respect, I think you went a bit easy on the final act, which for me really sucked ass. The fact the skinny guy that couldn't climb a set of stairs and looks more anorexic than the Olson twins can take out a battalion is b.s. And why - knowing the two females are in the house somewhere - he'd unleash the zombie is stupid. And why he was leased in the first place by the general was lazy plot development. And then there was the little girl who whipped the car around and convientely allowed the zombie to rip the general guy out and then she merely picks up her friends and they're out. And then there's the cheese-ass ending. They copped out and went with the feel-good, everyone survives and gets rescued ending which was completely inconsistent with how the movie was. I much preferred that alternative ending where the lead guy dies and the girls continue on their journey to survived.

4/06/2010 05:24:00 PM

Blogger RedRobotMonkey said...

All these "plot holes" you mentioned, are not plot holes at all. You are looking at this with a one track mind. First of all, there is no cold hard rule that says without water, you will die within 3 days. And the key being left under his door, could have been left there by someone at the hospital that was fleeing and wasn't able to bring a coma patient with them, but for the sake of a last ditch effort, they lock the door and leave the key in case the dude wakes up. But more importantly, you say that cambridge was developing the virus. In reality you would not know that for sure. How do you know they didn't find this virus, and were trying to work out a vaccine just in case such a virus were to appear in the general population. Seems like something a University would do no? There are too many points you mentioned that I could argue against, so I am not going to bother. For sure, this movie had some plot holes, but no more than any other sci fi/horror movies out there. 28 weeks later had way more plot holes to be exact.

12/27/2010 01:10:00 AM

Blogger Lee Jerry said...

Lol exactly my thoughts. Also near the end when the cowardly skinny main character suddenly got super training / stamina / speed against the army was bull. It was extremely overrated.

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Blogger RedRobotMonkey said...

"First, there is the very nature of the virus in the film: a single drop of blood can infect someone in 20 seconds. Literally, 20 seconds. I've done some rough calculations, and that makes it several times more potent than sarin gas."
How is this a plot how?

You also mentioned they were using "monkeys" several times, when it's obvious they were Chimpanzees. Your post has plot holes.

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