28 Weeks Later, unlike its predecessor, is not about either the infected creatures that inhabit its scenery, or the characters that are trying to survive. This time around, it’s about Americans and their involvement in the problems of other countries. Or at least, that’s what I got out of it, and considering that Americans occupy the majority of the screen time of 28 Weeks Later, I feel confident in this assertion.
The main plot of 28 Weeks Later doesn’t start up until after 30 minutes in. Before then, we witness how the world has changed after the events that took place in the previous film, 28 Days Later. We find out that it took weeks for all the infected to starve to death, and that Britain is now, as far as everyone knows, infection free. People are starting to re-inhabit certain areas that the American-led NATO team designates, and things are beginning to look up for the nation.
We meet our lead characters. There are four, although you won’t know that one of them is a lead until after the “disaster” of the film. Two of them are children, a boy and girl named Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton) and Tammy (Imogen Poots). Their father (Robert Carlyle) was one of the last survivors left over from the initial outbreak. The other two leads are Americans: Scarlet Ross (Rose Byrne) is a medical officer, while Sergeant Doyle (Jeremy Renner) is a sniper who ends up realizing that what he’s forced to do isn’t best for anyone.
The major conflict of the film occurs when, surprising absolutely nobody, the infection from the first film returns. This virus turns people into what are essentially zombies, except they can sprint, making them far more dangerous. The virus is passed on by ingesting infected blood, or by being bitten by an infected. You become an infected within 20 seconds.
The infection spreads. The Americans are still patrolling Britain, and activate a “Code Red”. We’re told by Scarlet that a “Code Red” consists of three stages: Evacuation, containment and extermination. We get to the final stage, which means that everyone on ground level is to be eliminated by the snipers on the rooftop. Sergeant Doyle decides this is wrong, and leaves his post to hang out with the remaining survivors. The rest of the film deals with our four leads attempting to leave safely.
It would seem to me that somebody, either the producers, writers or director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo really liked the final third of 28 Days Later. I say this, because almost all of 28 Weeks Later plays our the same way as the ending to its predecessor. The opening scene in this film could be the climax in many, and while it doesn’t maintain that level of energy throughout, it works a lot more like an action film than it rightly should. The first film, at least, the first two-thirds of it, gave us a feeling of isolation and despair. We never get that this time around.
Instead, we’re given a lot of action scenes where our characters run away from the infected or the Americans. Usually, it’s a combination of both, but there are times where they run solely from the American military. In fact, the biggest threat in the film is the Americans, as they have weapons that could level an entire city. Our cast isn’t usually running from the infected because they’re the primary threat, but instead run away as their escape route takes them to safety from the American snipers and bombers. The “people are bad” sentiment from the first film rings true once again.
In this film, the characters have the primary objective of “escape from the city”. That’s it, and there is no room or time from deviation. As a result, characters don’t get to make choices or develop. They’re led by Sergeant Doyle, and just follow his lead for most of the escape attempt. That’s it, and we never get to care about some of these characters as a result of them playing follow the leader for most of the film. The two children get some time to develop before the infection returns, but that has little impact on how they act when crisis strikes.
There are also some changes made to the infected since the first film. In this one, they can be seen with much more intelligence than before. There’s one in particular that, if consistent with the first film, would run directly at our survivors, likely dying in the process. Here, he stalks our characters for a large portion of the film, as well as seemingly recognizes their voices and has memories of past events. I almost thought this was to make us have a greater emotional impact when he does something, but it doesn’t lead to anything of importance. Call that a lost opportunity, I suppose.
28 Weeks Later is largely unrelated to the first film. It builds off it, but features none of the same characters, changes some of the events and doesn’t have a similar story or feel. It’s a sequel in name and place only, with all of the best elements from the first film being ignored. Is it still okay? Yes, it’s fine. It’s not great, but like the final third of 28 Days Later, it’s just decent. It’s serviceable. It will do. But it isn’t great or all that necessary. It disappointed me because there was so much wasted potential. But it manages to stay mostly entertaining, even if it was made in a completely different spirit than the first film.