To say something as insane as “28 Weeks Later is marginally better than 28 Days Later” is a great way to alienate everyone around you. But I’ve said far worse than that, and will probably go on to say worse things down the line. The facts are clear as day, the Robert Carlyle-led 28 Weeks Later is somewhat superior to that of Danny Boyle’s preceding efforts in 28 Days Later. Please, try to contain your anger at thinking Jeremy Renner taking pot-shots at outbreaking zombies and looking after kids in an aimless plot of survival is greater than Brendan Gleeson driving a taxi. Surely a rage-inducing concept to grasp, but worth considering when it becomes clear that 28 Weeks Later wishes to expand on its own little universe, rather than toil away not questioning the intricacies of its craft.
A sequel was not necessary, but returning to the slowly reclaimed United Kingdom and the London district offers up great comparisons for the before and after-effects of a total zombie apocalypse. Normality is restored somewhat, and the expansion to what little mystery there was in the original is a welcome sight. Audiences are given a sense of the earth-shattering effects, and some moments showcase an emotional scope that was lacking in 28 Days Later. A father and his two children are re-united, looking to start their lives anew. Problems of the apocalypse are front and centre, but overhead is the gloomy cloud of family life, and the little arguments that come with it are far more venomous and weightier.
Carlyle paves the way for this sequel rather well, collecting scraps of his life before the outbreak. That overhanging cloud turns into a discussion of guilt and grief. As engaging a narrative thread this may be, it is thrown out rather immediately. Stepping aside to let Jeremy Renner and Rose Byrne take the spotlight is an odd choice that leads to a slew of underwhelming scenes. It feels as if Carylye was meant to be the centrepiece of discussion but dropped out of a heavy workload when Boyle did the same. Byrne and Renner are not dreadful in their leading roles, but their story is lacklustre and plain, they are tasked with escaping, just as the characters within 28 Days Later were expected to do the same.
There’s only so far you can take a film about zombies, but director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo does his best with the material on hand. He muses on a couple themes that his predecessor brought to the table, and attempts to give them more range. Unfortunately, a failure to understand what makes a zombie flick tick leaves 28 Weeks Later feeling a bit repetitive and even unnecessary at times. Where it may have the action-packed moments the first film didn’t have the budget for, they shoulder out the interesting themes, the topics of family and the rebuilding of society when it all falls down. A mixed bag, and you’d be lucky to draw anything more than acceptable solidity from this.