Saturday, May 26, 2007

London Falling

Saw 28 Weeks Later last night. Few explicit spoilers follow, but much can be infered from what I write below. If you haven't seen the movie yet, and you intend to, you may want to skip this entry.

Released at the start of the summer blockbuster season: going up against Spiderman, Pirates, Shrek, Die Hard, Silver Surfer, and any number of other big-bang, uplifting, heartwarming, adrenalising affirmations that Good Triumphs Over Evil Because It's Nicer. And what does 28 Weeks Later put on the table against such adversaries?

Characters invested with such humanity that you know, according to the rules of Hollywood, that at the very least they'll make it to the final reel — only to see them felled like red-shirted extras before the halfway mark. Families tearing each other apart (no, that is not metaphor). Rooftop snipers stamped from neither Stormtrooper nor Top Gun molds, decent shits with real honest-to-God consciences, indiscriminately shooting civillians in the street to spare them the napalm that takes their unluckier mates ten minutes further on.

And worst of all, this movie delivers a viewing audience that knows, down in the bone, that there's nothing else to be done, that the massacre of innocents is the only strategy that holds any hope at all — and that even that, ultimately, may not be enough.

In the summer popcorn season? This movie has balls the size of fucking grapefruits.

I'm even willing to forgive the supernaturally-absurd rate at which the rage virus propagates. (Sure, you can go from swapping spit to full-blown eyeball-haemorrhageing psychosis in 35 seconds. All you need is a bug that reproduces two hundred times per second). I can forgive it because I am so sick of tepid Hollywood movies (Outbreak comes to mind) that pretend to grapple with the no-win scenario only to pull some third alternative out of their asses in the third act, movies whose sacred trust is to reassure skittish moviegoers that See, there is a way to avoid killing all those innocent infectees. All we have to do is stop the Evil General Who Won't Listen To Reason!

Back in the day, Disney kiddie movies had more hard-eyed maturity than crap like Outbreak. Bambi's mother died, irrevocably, because that's what parents do in real life. You just gotta deal with it. But not today. Today, Spielberg rewrites history and arms ET's containment forces with walkie-fucking-talkies to protect the delicate sensibilities of the world's children (yet another example of the cognitive impairment that seems to accompany parenthood, btw.)

But not 28 Weeks Later. Here's a movie that doesn't even offer us the cold solace of a no-hope scenario. There is hope, you see. There is hope, and there are decent people trying to do the best they can in dire circumstances, and there are no villains — only victims and vectors.

But most of all there is hope. There is at least the glimmer of a solution. And decent, well-intentioned Human stupidity squanders it anyway.

You can have your Spiderman and your Silver Surfer. Watch the pretty explosions. Eat your pocorn. Suck your thumbs.

As for me? Whenever I find my will to live becoming too strong, I watch 28 Weeks Later.

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19 Comments:

Blogger Teresa said...

Hey Peter! ya, I know, I've not been around much lately. I've gone and gotten myself addicted to watching the Eagle's nest live streaming video cameras out of Sidney ... amazing stuff to watch.

Just wanted to weigh in by saying I haven't had the chance to see 28 Weeks Later yet, but I am still recovering from the experience of seeing Children of Man, which we rented last week... that's one downer of a movie. But it lingers, it offers no respite or hope but it won't leave me alone, either. I'm guessing I'll like 28 Weeks, too.

I'm glad to see this blog thriving. Take care!

May 27, 2007 at 3:05 AM  
Anonymous Nick Alcock said...

It makes sense, I guess: you need a fallback auto-depression method, since the method the rest of us use won't work on you. ;)

May 27, 2007 at 12:10 PM  
Blogger TheBrummell said...

...but I am still recovering from the experience of seeing Children of Man, which we rented last week...

I saw that in a theatre a few months ago. I was highly entertained, but not amused - there about three jokes in the whole movie, and at least two of those three is shortly followed by the violent, unpleasant death of the jokester.

Still, an excellent film, in my opinion. I haven't seen either 28 weeks or days, so I shall have to have a rent-a-thon at the earliest opportunity. I'm glad to see that some filmakers have not succumbed to the every-story-has-a-happy-ending crapola.

May 27, 2007 at 5:24 PM  
Blogger Steve S. said...

I've been thinking about this post all day - especially since we went to go see Shrek 3 today.

I like your analysis, by the by - if I wasn't queased by excessive blood & guts on film, I might actually have gone to see it. If there was a book... Hey, didn't Scott Sigler put out something recently? Anyway...

I commented to my wife after seeing Spiderman 3 and Superman Returns that capes are the modern opera: Big non-subtle themes. Good vs. Evil in big thwacking gobs of melodrama. Thank god the dialog isn't sung.

And I love them. Compeletely and utterly. Yes, they're escapist. But damn, there's lots of times where I think about the grim certainties of life - and doing that too much simply isn't good for efficiency or operational readiness for when the shit does hit the fan.

There's a time and a place for popcorn; cookies are a sometimes food.

I then had to figure out, if this was my big thing with drama/melodrama ... why do I like your books, Peter? What gives? Why is Seppuku my *least* favorite of the Rifters books, when it's the one that comes the closest to the action-movie genre. I mean, it actually has heroes (or at least anti-heroes) trying to set things right in a big explosion-laden action sequence...

I can only figure that it's catharsis. That it's the same thing as watching horror movies (and I mean horror, not splatterpunk). It forces you to look at these hard choices - and not have to make them. It's someone else's problem.

We get to go home, and the little reptile gets to rejoice that someone else is toast instead of us.

What do you think?

May 27, 2007 at 8:36 PM  
Blogger Scott C. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

May 27, 2007 at 8:48 PM  
Blogger Mac said...

Just got back from it. I was *probably* gonna see it anyway, but your post (which I didn't read until just now) pushed me over the line.

May 27, 2007 at 9:24 PM  
Blogger Scott C. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

May 27, 2007 at 9:25 PM  
Blogger HannuB said...

Hey Peter! I'm new here in NMAoCFI (Reloaded) but you know me anyway. :)

Haven't seen 28 Weeks yet, but saw 28 Days and it rocked, so I expect to love 28 Weeks as well.
But then again, I seem to have a penchant for dark and depressing (or downright weird) movies these days.

Maybe it's got something to do how On The Beach (the original 1959 film, not the Russel Mulcahy remake) which I saw as a kid, used to give me nightmares. Really bad ones. Still, after 40+ years, I'm recovering from that one...

Ok, the southward drift of the nuclear fallout as portrayed in the film (and Nevil Shute's book) is thought to be scientifically implausible, but still the film has some serious lingering power and can IMO easily break anyone's will to live.

-Hannu

May 28, 2007 at 9:27 AM  
Anonymous kevin s. said...

i really liked it. perfectly paced, beautifully shot, and some genuine nail-biting scenes. the only problem i have with this zombie version is the amount of bodily fluids they produce. i like monsters to be somewhat plausible and there is no way a human could hemorrhage/vomit that much blood and not go into shock. also, the speed at which the become infected was unbelievable, but added to the fear factor. this was one of the only movies in a long time that actually made me feel a bit nervous after i left the theater. worth the price of admission.

and while on the subject, CoM was ridiculously over-rated.

May 28, 2007 at 9:32 PM  
Blogger scribblercraig said...

What I found quite interesting is that every time someone goes to do a good deed, it still all leads to shit...

May 29, 2007 at 8:30 AM  
Blogger Peter Watts said...

Teresa optimistically stated,

I am still recovering from the experience of seeing Children of Man, which we rented last week... that's one downer of a movie. But it lingers, it offers no respite or hope

And then kevin grumbled that

CoM was ridiculously over-rated.


Hey, T. Welcome back. But I completely disagree with you about CoM, and while I wouldn't go so far as kevin did, I would point out that the entire movie is suffused with hope. Cats, after all, survive in abundance. The very focus of the movie is the protection of a pregnant woman who might be the salvation of Homo sap. And the movie fades to black after an ending that provides no explanation, rationale, or insight into exactly where the protags have ended up or how the situation grew so dire— and we hear the laughter of children as the credits roll! Hope was the only thing on display at the end of that movie, you ask me. I would have gladly traded some of it for a few answers.

Not that I'm saying it was a bad movie, mind you; I found it quite effective. But I don't believe it earned the ray of sunshine it gave us at the end; it's almost as though the producers shied away from the logic of their own film for fear of alienating audiences. I haven't read the book; can anyone tell me if the movie accurately reflects the ending of the novel?

May 29, 2007 at 10:18 AM  
Blogger Peter Watts said...

Steve ruminates

I then had to figure out, if this was my big thing with drama/melodrama ... why do I like your books, Peter? What gives? Why is Seppuku my *least* favorite of the Rifters books, when it's the one that comes the closest to the action-movie genre. I mean, it actually has heroes (or at least anti-heroes) trying to set things right in a big explosion-laden action sequence...

(snippage)

What do you think?


I think you're far from alone in not being crazy about Seppuku, which suggests that it has failings that have nothing to do with its action-genre trappings. A lot of people couldn't get past the sexual violence (that great "horrific porn" quote from Kirkus, for example; see also the disproportionate number of one-star reviews on Amazon) -- a position I find curious since vastly more horrendous acts of violence elsewhere in the series provoked no such complaints (the deliberate immolation of thousands of refugees in Maelstrom, for example). And I myself am of two minds about Behemoth. I've never gone back and actually read any of my novels in their entirety, but I do sometimes grab a copy off the shelf and read random snippets-- and I actually find the prose and the pacing in Behemoth more accessible than most of Maelstrom. Technically, I think it's a fine book. But what it lacks is innovation; it's the concluding act of a trilogy, and its job was not to introduce cool new ideas but to tie up old ones. There was a lower density of ideas/page (which is part of what made it more accessible, but there's two edges to that sword) and a been-there-done-that feel to it.

William Gibson once said that when he was writing Mona Lisa Overdrive, he felt like he was reupholstering the couch. I can relate-- I was a bit tired of the rifters saga at that point, and in fact I wanted to start right in on Blindsight after finishing Maelstrom. I thought I'd do a better job of tying up the rifters story if I came back to it after a break. My (former) agent, though, told me I should stick with the "proven" series, and I followed his advice. (Of course, he's also the guy who couldn't sell Blindsight to any of the half-dozen publishers he approached, so that tells you something.)

I have noticed one interesting detail, though; of all the written reviews I've seen, those that treated both volumes of Behemoth as a single novel have glowed. All the negative reviews of Seppuku I've read, on the other hand, have judged it as though it were intended to stand alone, sometimes without even mentioning the existence of B-Max. Regardless of the book's other (admitted) failings, I think that's significant.

May 29, 2007 at 11:02 AM  
Blogger Peter Watts said...

Scott cast his vote

for whatever package sucked in a manner that let me go back and insert the missing comma in my stupid drive-by comments. Its reasonable to ask you to change your entire blog system to accommodate my inability to proof a single line of text, right?

It might be. If there's some way of porting these entries over to a competing system that a) allows threaded comments, b) allows editting comments, and c) let's the blog reside on my own URL, rather than forcing us to advertise Livejournal or whatever. Evolve or die, after all.

Suggestions, anyone? Wordpress looks like it might have potential...


Hannu! Welcome!

Tell me, did you ever have a girlfriend who ended up as a wildlife biologist?


Brumster said...

Well, it doesn't matter what he said, because I'm not actually responding to ay specific post of his this time. But I have checked out his website, and man, it's a bit scary how our cross-country paths have paralleled each other over the years...

May 29, 2007 at 7:23 PM  
Blogger Mac said...

I've read P.D. James' novel, "The Children of Men." Acutely disappointing. Pretty much what you'd expect from a first science fiction novel by an author unfamiliar with the genre.

May 29, 2007 at 11:07 PM  
Anonymous kevin s. said...

that's cuz it ain't sci-fi (or at least the movie wasn't).

the point of post-apocalyptic movies is what happens after tomorrow, how does society go on, what's worth living for? i felt like i was waiting for some meaning or actual depth during the entire film. the closest the movie got was during the stairs scene when the soldiers held their fire and were awed by the sight of a child, suggesting that life in its entirety is pointless without the miracle of life, the laughter of a child. i only felt the effect of overly dramatized imagery and music. it was like they decided to make a movie about the most inconsequential point in the apocalypse possible- the point after the chaos of the end of civilization and before the struggle of rebirth. i mean, c'mon! they didn't even show anything about The Human Project. wasn't that like the whole point of the movie?! worthless. unless they plan on doing a sequel, i can't say much good about the movie in recommendation.

anyone wanting some quality post-apocalyptic drama - the "Survivors" BBC TV cult series from the 70's is far superior to this movie in every aspect and an amazing story of human nature by any measure. well, "Survivors" was filmed in the seventies so it obviously cannot be superior in terms of technical production and whatnot, but other than that...

http://imdb.com/title/tt0072572/

"When a genetically engineered virus kills ninety-five percent of the world's population, the survivors must rebuild humanity in the face of overwhelming odds. "Survivors" is a study of man vs. nature and man vs. man in an attempt to reclaim an unrelenting world."

May 30, 2007 at 12:19 AM  
Blogger TheBrummell said...

Well, it doesn't matter what he said, because I'm not actually responding to ay specific post of his this time. But I have checked out his website, and man, it's a bit scary how our cross-country paths have paralleled each other over the years...

That's because I'M STALKING YOU! wooo-eeee-eeee-ooooo... (insert spooky music here).

Except for the fact that I'm running more than 20 years behind you, and you never did graduate work at SFU, and I abandoned my childhood dream of working at the Vancouver Aquarium while you went ahead and did that. Plus I'd like to write Sci-Fi but that dream may die, too...

Dammit! Now I'm all maudlin. I'll need to improve my mood (i.e. hypodermic caffeine injection with an L-dopa chaser) before I tackle another day of reading tedious review papers and writing my own tedious review paper.

Thanks for the oblique advertisement for my blog. I am a media whore, though not a very good one. Readership, ahoy!

Seriously, I need to get back to work. Stop writing cool stuff for a bit so I can get some stuff done, please.

May 30, 2007 at 11:07 AM  
Blogger Peter Watts said...

Brumster demurred

Except for the fact that I'm running more than 20 years behind you, and you never did graduate work at SFU

Well, not technically, but I was involved for a couple of years with someone who did, and that entailed helping out with the occasional proposal and research paper. Not that I ever got authorship.

and I abandoned my childhood dream of working at the Vancouver Aquarium while you went ahead and did that.

At. Not for. Let's just be really clear on that point. I was never an employee of the Vacnouver Aquarium. And as for your childhood dream, you're lucky it was never fulfilled. You will not find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.

Thanks for the oblique advertisement for my blog. I am a media whore, though not a very good one.

It wasn't a very good ad, either. I never gave the link.

Stop writing cool stuff for a bit so I can get some stuff done, please.


This is your lucky week. I'm so snowed under that postings for the next little while are bound to be both sparse and lame.

May 30, 2007 at 11:38 PM  
Blogger HannuB said...

Hannu! Welcome!

Thanks. Good to see your blog is thriving. :)

Tell me, did you ever have a girlfriend who ended up as a wildlife biologist?

Interesting question. Err...No, not that I remember. Although I once was romantically involved with a veterinarian's sister. Does that count?

-Hannu

May 31, 2007 at 8:44 AM  
Anonymous OnlinePharmacy said...

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October 26, 2007 at 5:19 AM  

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