Movie Challenge #3: Movie with a Number in the Title (28 Weeks Later)

28 weeks laterFirst challenge completed! I finally got around to watching 28 Weeks Later, the sequel to the excellent Danny Boyle-directed zombie movie 28 Days Later. Danny Boyle shifted to producer on this as he was busy directing another film, and a Spanish director named Juan Carlos Fresnadillo joined the film. None of the cast of the first movie returned, but that’s okay because this is a completely different story.

Obviously, we know from the title that more time has passed since Cillian Murphy woke up in that hospital in the first movie and the world had gone to hell. We get a brief glimpse of the early days of the apocalypse in this film, but only so that we can see the ramifications of certain characters’ actions later in the movie. Through a quick timeline, we learn that all the infected actually died of starvation after 5 weeks, and then cleanup began. NATO forces arrived to begin reconstructing Great Britain, and the first survivors move into a heavily-guarded area called District 1.

One of those guards is Jeremy Renner, playing the role of a sniper. Idris Elba plays a general (with an American accent…in a movie set in Great Britain…so surreal). The rest of the case is fantastic, too, especially the 12-year-old boy Andy, played by an actor named Mackintosh Muggleton, who just missed his chance to be a Harry Potter character, I think. Andy and his older sister Tammy had been on a school trip when the outbreak began, and they are returning to live with their father in District 1. They become the emotional focus of the movie, even when the outbreak unexpectedly begins again.

This was a good sequel, almost as good as the original. Lots of unexpected things happen, and the ending just sort of pulls the rug out from under you. I loved the way it ended. My only complaint about the movie was the shaky-camera work. It made me a little dizzy, but it did cut down on some of the gore, so I don’t suppose I should complain too much.

So there’s one movie down, and one spoiler-free review! If there are more dreary, rainy days next week, I expect I’ll nail down more movie and book challenges then.

It’s the end of the world as we know it…

or, Ten Things I Love Regarding the Apocalypse and/or Alternative Civilization Societies.

The Victorians in Britain were known for their sensational fiction and ghost stories. Why were these tales so popular during the writers’ lifetimes? The writing reflected an anxiety about the culture: one could be haunted by some secret sin, and a ghost could seek revenge for that well-hidden transgression. Additionally, Victorians greatly valued domesticity, and women were idealized as angels of the home. A haunted house was the embodiment of insecrurities plaguing those places where one should feel safest.

In the same way, I think a lot of texts in current popular culture regarding the apocalypse or some futuristic post-civilization society reflect the fear in America (or maybe even the West) today. Since the Cold War, we’ve feared nuclear attack and the end of the world. Technology is changing so quickly that it’s impossible to know where our culture’s dependency on  technology and innovation will be even a year from now. Rapid change brings out anxieties and fears: will we get to a point where technology utterly destroys? Where we devolve into a society where survivial is our only concern?

This seems to be a trend, and one that I’m particularly interested in, although I didn’t really understand my own fascination with it until I sat down to write this list (with actual pen and paper on an old-fashioned wooden desk–shocker!). In the past few years, a lot of the books/movies/TV shows that I’ve really enjoyed have depicted this theme, and I decided it would be fun to make a list of my favorite texts involving the apocalypse. 🙂 [Note: the order of this list is only the order in which I thought of them.]

Muse-Absolution20031. Absolution, Muse. Their best album (out of an incredible catalog).  [Side note: I haven’t bought or even heard their newest album, which came out last week. That album may nullify this point.] I would even argue that this is one of the greatest albums in the history of music. Yeah, it’s that good. This album from a trio of conspiracy theorists/musicians is all about the apocalypse. Examples:

  • from “Apocalypse Please”: “It’s time we saw a miracle / Come on, it’s time for something biblical/ [ . . . ] This is the end of the world”
  • from “Thoughts of a Dying Atheist,” one of the last tracks on the album: “And I know the moment’s near / There’s nothing you can do / Look through a faithless eye / Are you afraid to die?”

2. The Road, Cormac McCarthy. An incredible, haunting, sparse novel about a man and his son fighting for survival in post-apocalpytic America. Beautiful in its darkness and tragedy.

jericho3. Jericho. A TV show cancelled after a cliffhanger first season, brought back after outraged fans protested, and cancelled again for good after a disappointing, short second season. The setting is a small Kansas town filled with tenacious, ingenius residents who manage to hold onto the remnants of civilization and humanity after most of the major cities in the United States are annihilated by hydrogen bombs. I spent part of last weekend rewatching some of season one when I wasn’t writing papers or grading or planning or anything responsible.

4. I Am Legend, a book by Richard Matheson, and several movies. The book and the most recent film starring Will Smith are the ones I am acquainted with, and the stories are so vastly different that they should be considered separate texts. Essentially, each is the store of the last man left alive (in the movie, it’s NYC, and I don’t remember the location of the book). He has a strange resistance to the vampiric disease that has infected every other human and most animals. He devotes his life to searching for the cause and the cure. The book and the movie each end in a vastly different way. And each is stark and disturbing in its own way.

giver5. The Giver, Lois Lowry. A classic children’s book about a society of people whose lives are utterly conformed to the set laws of society. A boy named Jonas is chosen to be the Receiver of Memories, and he alone knows the pain, triumph, and love of society, a terrifying and weighty existence. Be sure to read the sequels Gathering Blue and The Messenger. The trio is a great commentary on the importance of both love and pain.

specials6. The Uglies series, Scott Westerfeld. With its own vocabulary and awesome technology like hoverboards, these books about a futuristic, post-Rusties (a.k.a – us) society are sometimes fun and often thought-provoking. The series deals with some of the same issues as The Giver–what happens when society seeks to conform an entire race? What happens when a select group refuses to conform? (Also–check out the cover to Specials to the left–they have these awesome tattoos called “flash tattoos” that sound painful and super awesome at the same time.)

7. Independence Day. I like films with Will Smith and the apocalypse, apparently. An alien race trying to destroy America + Will Smith + super-nerdy Jeff Goldblum? What’s not to love, really?

8. “It’s the End of the World as We Know It,” R.E.M. “…and I feel fine.” Really…why worry? 🙂

9. The Host, Stephenie Meyer. Really, how could I not include my favorite Meyer book? The whole world (and many other planets in far-off galaxies) has been taken over by a mild, peaceful race of souls who end all wars and violence and set up a calm and gentle society. With two problems: some humans have escape capture and are carefully hidden, while other humans refuse to succumb to the sould placed within their bodies. In my opinion, this is Meyer’s best work, even if it is slow-moving at first.

10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury. What happens when we begin to fear knowledge rather than revere it? This happens. Firefighters set fires to destroy books rather than putting fires out. Men hide, secretly memorizing the words of great philosophers and writers, so their words will not be lost forever. And one man realizes the value of knowledge and thinking for oneself and attempts to break away from the society that is so binding and restrictive.

#85: The Georgia Guidestones

georgia_guidestonesYesterday, Harvin, Ticcoa, Jess, and I took a relatively short trip to Georgia to see the Georgia Guidestones. A few weeks ago, I read an article in The Week about the Guidestones, and we decided to celebrate the 4th of July by learning how to survive the apocalypse. 🙂

A mystery surrounds the identity of the man who commissioned the building of the guidestones. The article in The Week is a very well-written, informative article outlining the history of the monument, so you should read that if you want more background.Essentially, this sixteen-foot-tall monument was erected in order to guide any survivors of the apocalpyse as to how to rebuild society. There are ten (very vague) guidelines etched in granite in 8 modern languages: English, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Hebrew, Arabic, Hindi, and Swahili.

The guidelines:

GeorgiaGuidestones-407x699.jpe1. Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature. (For this to happen, at least 9 out of 10 people would have had to die in the apocalypse.)

2. Guide reproduction wisely – improving fitness and diversity. (Goes hand-in-hand with #1? And “improve fitness and diversity”…are we controlling genetic factors now?)

3. Unite humanity with a living new language. (I’ve studied HEL…this will be almost impossible unless the only survivors speak one language. And this seemingly contradicts the 8 modern languages and 4 ancient one etched into the guidestones.)

4. Rule passion – faith – tradition – and all things with tempered reason. (Head vs. heart? Ethan Brand, did you visit the guidestones?)

5. Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts. (Evidently, the creators of the guidestones believed in some higher power guiding justice and morality.)

6. Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court. (World court? That’s sort of a scary idea. But I suppose if people manage to survive the apocalypse, anything is possible.)

7. Avoid petty laws and useless officials. (Who exactly decides what is petty and useless?)

8. Balance personal rights with social duties. (Okay. How?)

9. Prize truth – beauty – love – seeking harmony with the infinite. (The infinite what precisely? Still, I think this is my favorite of the guidelines.)

10. Be not a cancer on the earth – Leave room for nature – Leave room for nature. (So important, they had to say it twice.)

It was, of course, a fun trip. The Guidestones are only about an hour and a half away, in the middle of freakin’ nowhere Georgia. (Really, south of Hartwell, north of Elberton…lots of long country roads and farmland.) We listened to Muse’s Absolution album (really, is there another soundtrack more perfect? The first song is called “Apocolaypse Please”!). Jess regaled us with conspiracy theories about the impending apocalypse on Dec. 21, 2012, and encouraged us to join her on the floating island that will somehow survive. We got lost, but Harvin with her impressive directional skills managed to find her way back to civilization. And we followed the trip up with lunch at Applebee’s, where we requested to sit in the back corner of the restaurant, next to a big picture of Harry and Ron, and next to the kitchen, where we heard all the waiters talking and laughing; we also watched (and laughed hysterically at) a hot dog eating contest on ESPN while we waited for our food. Happy Independence Day, indeed!