Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Someone Should have Told..

Rowan Joffe, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Jesus Olmo, and Enrique Lopez Lavigne that I should be spending this online space on something more than poopoo-ing the movie they wrote, and directed in the case of Fresnadillo. It could also have been the fault(s) of Bernard Bellew, Danny Boyle, Alex Garland, Andrew Macdonald, or Allon Reich. I'm just imagining a development meeting that went something like:
1st Person Responsible: Hey, why don't we make a thinly veiled allegory of the war on terrorism and the situation in Iraq?

2nd Person Responsible: Sounds good, but how will we illustrate the difficulty in determining terrorist from civilian on the ground?

3rd Person Responsible: Remember that movie 28 Days Later? It'd be pretty hard to tell who was infected and who wasn't if everyone were running around like crazy.

4th Person Responsible: Yeah, and we can make a big deal about there being kids involved so we can get interest from the "WON'T ANYONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!?!?" crowd.

All Together: Perfect!

Yes, I'm referring to 28 Weeks Later, and this entire post is riddled with spoilers. If you intend to see the movie, and knowing certain details will ruin it for you, stop reading now.

I didn't think I'd like it based on the trailers, but I went to see it with some friends anyway. The opening sequence was rather good, and I started to reconsider my initial scepticism. Perhaps it was just a bad trailer.

Alas, the slow start to a downhill descent happened not much later. After intertitles inform us that X weeks after the outbreak in the UK the infected died of starvation and Y weeks after that a US led NATO force comes in to clean up, we see some cleaning up and a shot of a lone young woman in a t-shirt and b.d.u. bottoms standing in the glass of a very quiet airport. A plane has arrived and is offloading the repopulators. Surveying these people, the woman speaks over her radio something to the effect of, "No one told me we were letting in children." Great, the trailer didn't lie to me.

The military is in control of London with bored snipers on the rooftops (the infected have all starved off after all), fully armed men guarding the gates to the city and on patrol in the streets, helicopters overhead, and machine gun emplacements. The only known safe place is Zone 1 (or whatever they called it) with this heavy military presence, running water, electricity, &c. Outside of that, there's still the danger of the odd infected person still being alive, and even if that isn't a danger, there are still all sorts of bodies and organic material that needs cleaning up before repopulation. *gasp* This couldn't possibly be an allegory for the "Green Zone" in Iraq could it?

We see the kids joyous reunion with dad, and the tearful revelation that their mother was the histrionic killed in the opening sequence. But wait, the kids sneak past the gates (they are seen by a sniper who sends a helicopter to follow them) to retrieve their favourite things from their old home. What of their most favourite things do they find there? Why, their mother of course. It turns out she's infected, but genetic abnormalities keep her asymptomatic.

"SAVE THE CHILDREN" doctor woman wants to keep her alive for study and a possible cure to the infection. Why the research into a cure couldn't be done with computer records of the infection's construction and materials that would inevitably be found in computer records from the lab that created it is beyond me. At any rate, the NATO commander prefers to kill her and let the doctor examine the body for her answers.

Somehow, an unspecified amount of time passes between the commander's decision to kill the woman and when it actually would have happened. The kids' father uses his all access pass to see his wife, becomes infected, then we're back in the zombie movie. The doctor retrieves the children in a desperate attempt to get them to safety, since she's obsessed with the curative potential contained in their possible genetic abnormalities.

The civilians are herded into isolation pens and are repeatedly told it's "for their safety." I think we're supposed to feel confused and/or outraged, but it only makes sense in the event of an outbreak. Of course this set-up is too perfect and, predictably, the dad with the all access card finds his way into one of these secure areas. Cue all hell breaking loose.

The soldiers are instructed to kill the infected only, but it is understandably difficult to tell sprinting, crazed, killer zombie from sprinting, insanely frightened civilian. The order comes down to kill everything not in uniform, as it should. Really, isn't it better that they go quickly with a bullet than being torn apart by zombie teeth or becoming infected and doing something similar to their friends and loved ones?

So, it seems we're supposed to feel the killing of the civilians is not the correct action just like the sniper, the same one who spotted the kids on their way to their old home earlier, becomes another "SAVE THE CHILDREN" guy after getting the little boy in his cross hairs. He turns prototypical action hero and tries to lead a group of civilians, who barricaded themselves in building, to relative safety outside the killing zone. The doctor and two kids are among this group.

There's been too much exposition already, so, long story short, stuff happens, they run from the infected and kill some others, they run from the military, doctor gives super crap line "their lives are worth more than mine... or yours" with reference to the genetic curative potential, there's a very Silence of the Lambs gun sight and night vision bit. Also, because the doctor didn't see fit to share with the kids that they could possibly be infected but asymptomatic and contagious, the boy becomes infected, shares his mother's genetic bit, is evacuated with his sister, and infects France.

See, if only they'd 'THINK OF THE CHILDREN,' Europe, Asia, and Africa could have been saved! The safe zone is only safe if your personnel remain uninfected. Given the choice between shooting civilians, including children, or letting insurgents run free, choose the latter.

Oh, wait. Wow, my thinking about this whole thing was so uptight. Let's look for less surface messages. Everything was going well enough with the reclamation of London, supermarkets and a pub and such, until an insider fraternized with an infected. So, with better psychological testing during the vetting process, this avenue of infection into the safe zone could approach elimination.

Once the infectious agent is introduced in to the populace, its containment and elimination should be top priority. If containment is impossible there are two options: eliminate the population and thereby the infection, or allow the infection to run its course, leading to the situation before NATO's arrival of a few survivors and starved off infected. The first option seems more humane because the death will probably be less painful, but the second offers less moral dilemma for the individual soldier. Anyhow, the 'THINK OF THE CHILDREN' crowd actively try to subvert actions that are not only in their own best interests, but in the best interests of the world. These people annoy me to no end and lead to bad legislation here in the real world, I am pleased with their vilification here.

Well, this new look shows a little more subtlety and a subversiveness (as far as it seems to be generally regarded that shooting civilians is always a bad thing) in the movie than I had thought there. The fanatical humanitarianism of the 'SAVE THE CHILDREN' characters does nothing but kill off a very large portion of the world's population (While this is the only solution I see to effectively moving human population back to a sustainable living arrangement, the film doesn't seem to see it as a good thing). That's quite an indictment.

I might just have to change my opinion on this one. I'm definitely with my new interpretation. Let's give the finger to the 'WON'T ANYONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN' people.

Oh, and to finally see a helicopter used as a weapon in a zombie movie was rather nice. I mean seriously, it's a giant lawnmower asking for heads to chop off. Why did it take so long, or why haven't I discovered the movies in which it was previously used?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

All Done?

So... if all's well, I have finished with my graduate studies. I'm still awaiting grades, but I should have earned an MFA. Now, I'm just waiting on word of whether I've been accepted into a university run internship program. If not, I'll be working some crap jobs until I figure out what I can get.

On the bright side, we had the great pleasure of filling out course evaluations for the worst professor I've ever had today. I typed up a supplement to the questions because my answers were too long to write in a timely fashion, and I doubted I would remember all of my sentiments. It just so happens I was correct: I did not save the supplement, and I've forgotten the wording.

As best as I can recall, it contained some of the following:

  • The instructor failed to adequately explain concepts through inconsistency and incomprehensibility. For example, he would admonish against "doing psychology" while at the same time asking what a character in a film was feeling.
  • The instructor was quite willing to entertain debate if said debate did not stray from his preconceived notions. Should it stray, he would condescend to the student who held the differing opinion and quickly move on to another topic.
  • I have not done extensive searching, but I believe I coined the term 'sycophantastic' when taking up the question of this instructor's treatment of students. He treats his sycophantastic students and auditors well, lavishing them with praise. The others are, as mentioned above, condescended to or discounted entirely.
  • On a related note, his grading is far from fair. I believe I will receive a moderately good grade because I spewed out whatever drivel he wished to hear by using careful notes to get as far into his head as I could stomach. Others who had more integrity, spoke their own ideas and were penalized for it. This could have something to do with his stated belief that there are "right" and "wrong" interpretations of films and other works of art.
  • The worst part of the course was the instructor. The course could be improved if it were taught by a different instructor who was more willing to entertain opposing views.

I think those were the main points. It had quite a bit more text and was, perhaps, much better worded. I am pleased I, as far as I know, coined the term sycophantastic and hope to see it, with proper attribution, used in the future.

Edit: I just did some searching, and, sadly, I am not the coiner of the term. I apparently need to get out more.