Skip to main content

Only one way to keep you alive.


The Walking Dead 
3.1 Seed

One of the big problems I have apocalypse scenarios, where survivors eke out a back-to-basics lifestyle choice, is that writers are forced into selectivity regarding the practicalities of the situation. Most of the time the immediate threat is the one that brought about the end of the world. So, in a zombie apocalypse, you’re likely to be pretty much fine as long as you can avoid the hordes of the undead shuffling (or sprinting) about the place.

Scant regard is usually paid to the probability that most of the unzombified would succumb to radiation sickness in the months following the outbreak (or, even if there aren’t any zombies, would those in Survivors or Revolution have more than medium-term chances?) The answer, clearly, is to present a period movie zombie apocalypse. Either that or rely on friendly E.T.s to neutralise the radioactivity.

I’ve raised my doubts about the viability of the scenario (assuming zombies are viable, and we all know they are a very real threat, right?) before and have been confidently regaled concerning reactors’ automatic shutdown processes. But with no staff and the need for the cooling process to be maintained, not to mention that of the spent fuel pools, I’m less than reassured. Apparently there are more than 900 nuclear reactors across the world, of which more than 400 are power plants. It would be surprising if this weren’t as imminent a threat as being chowed down on by a deceased neighbour. Zombiepedia certainly seem to thinks so 

But Where the Wind Blows of the Dead probably wouldn’t be much fun. In it’s favour, it would probably all be over for us much more quickly than in Where the Wind Blows. A blessed relief as if you weren’t feeling suicidal before watching it, you soon would have topped yourself. The Walking Dead understandably eschews a rigorous depiction of what happens when the scientific age stops working. Instead it opts for a less expansive Ray Mears’ World of Survival, with substantially less knowledge of flora and fauna. The insight from this week’s episode; owls aren’t very filling.

The Waltons with Zombies of Season Two has been banished from the (ever-changing) producers’ minds, if the opener is anything to go by. The series still flounders on its soapy elements, since it’s difficult to care about characters’ conflicts when they’re walking clichés. It’s an appropriate irony that the dead are more interesting. Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes is the only character that the writers approach with any aspirations towards complexity and to his credit Lincoln has banished all memories of his former life in This Life.

But last season the OTT machinations of Shane were only digestible because of the gusto Jon Berthal brought to the character. Poor Sarah Wayne Callies seems to be afflicted by a string of unsympathetic wife/girlfriend parts, first with Prison Break and now here. Only Daryl (Norman Reedus) gets a free pass, because it’s difficult to go to far wrong with a self-serving anti-hero (with a heart of gold).

The Walking Deadis so robust in the face of predictable writing (Season Two, at least) that it may be closest thing there is to an unbreakable formula. All you need to do is stage an attack or skirmish at some point every episode and the pervading tension will do the rest of the work for you. The characters could spend an entire 42 minutes playing charades and we’d still watch for that moment where one of the undead interrupts what the second syllable sounds like.

I know the prison setting of the third season evolves from the comic book, but there’s a two-way logic in seeing it as a safe haven. It’s right there in the name. However much it may keep the enemy out, when the tables are turned there couldn’t be a more escape-countering scenario. So that’s one to look forward to, then. The first episode makes the most of the possibilities for tension, particular as the motley band ventures into the recesses of the prison. Quite why they take old coot Hershel on their zombie hunt is beyond me, particularly as he ends up semi-legless. I’d hoped David Morrisey would show up, but it looks as if I’ll have to wait another couple of weeks; still the reveal of the non-transformed prisoners makes a good end of episode.

They’re very, very dirty are Rick’s band. Grimes-y, even. It set me wondering about the issue of hygiene and infection. Since everyone seems concerned only about bites and scratches, one must assume that, however illogical, being covered in zombie blood and then getting it on with your beloved (Glenn and Maggie) poses no threat.

Season One’s revelation regarding everyone being infected came back into focus at the end of the second run. It’s a cheerfully nihilistic idea, I’ll give them that. But it also serves to complicate the hows and whys of infection in a way that, with the shuffling production personnel and variable quality on display, you just know is going to be seriously messed up at some point (if it hasn’t been already, with amputations proving surprisingly effective, given how fast blood circulates, and Daryl putting dirty arrows in his mouth). The unbitten come back as zombies when they expire and, if bitten, either the nasties of decaying disease kill them and reanimate them or the dormant virus is activated by the rampantly active infectious agent? I don’t really know. It matters to an extent, because there need to be clear rules and consistency, but the series isn’t really preoccupied with smart, cerebral concepts and plotting.

But it’s addictive, even in its weakest state (most of Season Two was like Kim and the cougar in24). At least, unlike Lost or Battlestar Galactica, it doesn’t offer the ever-distant hope of satisfying answers. The flipside is that it meanders on as a more visceral version of The Littlest Hobo for another four or five seasons, which could become a bit tiring.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

My name is Dr. King Schultz, this is my valet, Django, and these are our horses, Fritz, and Tony.

Django Unchained (2012)
(MINOR SPOILERS) Since the painful misstep of Grindhouse/Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino has regained the higher ground like never before. Pulp Fiction, his previous commercial and critical peak, has been at very least equalled by the back-to-back hits of Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Having been underwhelmed by his post Pulp Fiction efforts (albeit, I admired his technical advances as a director in Kill Bill), I was pleasantly surprised by Inglourious Basterds. It was no work of genius (so not Pulp Fiction) by any means, but there was a gleeful irreverence in its treatment of history and even to the nominal heroic status of its titular protagonists. Tonally, it was a good fit for the director’s “cool” aesthetic. As a purveyor of postmodern pastiche, where the surface level is the subtext, in some ways he was operating at his zenith. Django Unchained is a retreat from that position, the director caught in the tug between his all-important aesthetic pr…

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

I don’t think you will see President Pierce again.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
(SPOILERS) The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and other tall tales of the American frontier is the title of "the book" from which the Coen brothers' latest derives, and so announces itself as fiction up front as heavily as Fargo purported to be based on a true story. In the world of the portmanteau western – has there even been one before? – theme and content aren't really all that distinct from the more familiar horror collection, and as such, these six tales rely on sudden twists or reveals, most of them revolving around death. And inevitably with the anthology, some tall tales are stronger than other tall tales, the former dutifully taking up the slack.

One day you will speak and the jungle will listen.

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (2018)
(SPOILERS) The unloved and neglected Jungle Book movie that wasn't Disney’s, Jungle Book: Origins was originally pegged for a 2016 release, before being pushed to last year, then this, and then offloaded by Warner Bros onto Netflix. During which time the title changed to Mowgli: Tales from the Jungle Book, then Mowgli, and finally Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle. The assumption is usually that the loser out of vying projects – and going from competing with a near $1bn grossing box office titan to effectively straight-to-video is the definition of a loser – is by its nature inferior, but Andy Serkis' movie is a much more interesting, nuanced affair than the Disney flick, which tried to serve too many masters and floundered with a finale that saw Mowgli celebrated for scorching the jungle. And yes, it’s darker too. But not grimdarker.

You look like an angry lizard!

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
(SPOILERS) I can quite see a Queen fan begrudging this latest musical biopic for failing to adhere to the facts of their illustrious career – but then, what biopic does steer a straight and true course? – making it ironic that they're the main fuel for Bohemian Rhapsody's box office success. Most other criticisms – and they're legitimate, on the whole – fall away in the face of a hugely charismatic star turn from Rami Malek as the band's frontman. He's the difference between a standard-issue, episodic, join-the-dots narrative and one that occasionally touches greatness, and most importantly, carries emotional heft.

A steed is not praised for its might, but for its thoroughbred qualities.

The Avengers Season 3 Ranked - Worst to Best
Season Three is where The Avengers settles into its best-known form – okay, The Grandeur that was Rome aside, there’s nothing really pushing it towards the eccentric heights it would reach in the Rigg era – in no small part due to the permanent partnering of Honor Blackman with Patrick Macnee. It may not be as polished as the subsequent incarnations, but it has the appeal of actively exploring its boundaries, and probably edges out Season Five in the rankings, which rather started to believe its own hype.

There's something wrong with the sky.

Hold the Dark (2018)
(SPOILERS) Hold the Dark, an adaptation of William Giraldi's 2014 novel, is big on atmosphere, as you'd expect from director Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin, Green Room) and actor-now-director (I Don’t Want to Live in This World Anymore) pal Macon Blair (furnishing the screenplay and appearing in one scene), but contrastingly low on satisfying resolutions. Being wilfully oblique can be a winner if you’re entirely sure what you're trying to achieve, but the effect here is rather that it’s "for the sake of it" than purposeful.

I take Quaaludes 10-15 times a day for my "back pain", Adderall to stay focused, Xanax to take the edge off, part to mellow me out, cocaine to wake me back up again, and morphine... Well, because it's awesome.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Along with Pain & Gain and The Great Gatsby, The Wolf of Wall Street might be viewed as the completion of a loose 2013 trilogy on the subject of success and excess; the American Dream gone awry. It’s the superior picture to its fellows, by turns enthralling, absurd, outrageous and hilarious. This is the fieriest, most deliriously vibrant picture from the director since the millennium turned. Nevertheless, stood in the company of Goodfellas, the Martin Scorsese film from which The Wolf of Wall Street consciously takes many of its cues, it is found wanting.

I was vaguely familiar with the title, not because I knew much about Jordan Belfort but because the script had been in development for such a long time (Ridley Scott was attached at one time). So part of the pleasure of the film is discovering how widely the story diverges from the Wall Street template. “The Wolf of Wall Street” suggests one who towers over the city like a behemoth, rather than a guy …

What about the panties?

Sliver (1993)
(SPOILERS) It must have seemed like a no-brainer. Sharon Stone, fresh from flashing her way to one of the biggest hits of 1992, starring in a movie nourished with a screenplay from the writer of one of the biggest hits of 1992. That Sliver is one Stone’s better performing movies says more about how no one took her to their bosom rather than her ability to appeal outside of working with Paul Verhoeven. Attempting to replicate the erotic lure of Basic Instinct, but without the Dutch director’s shameless revelry and unrepentant glee (and divested of Michael Douglas’ sweaters), it flounders, a stupid movie with vague pretensions to depth made even more stupid by reshoots that changed the killer’s identity and exposed the cluelessness of the studio behind it.

Philip Noyce isn’t a stupid filmmaker, of course. He’s a more-than-competent journeyman when it comes to Hollywood blockbuster fare (Clear and Present Danger, Salt) also adept at “smart” smaller pictures (Rabbit Proof Fence

Outstanding. Now, let’s bite off all the heads and pile them up in the corner.

Venom (2018)
(SPOILERS) A 29% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes can't be wrong, can it? To go by the number of one-star reviews Sony’s attempt to kick-start their own shred of the Marvel-verse has received, you’d think it was the new Battlefield Earth, or Highlander II: The Quickening. Fortunately, it's far from that level of ignominy. And while it’s also a considerable distance from showing the polish and assuredness of the official Disney movies, it nevertheless manages to establish its own crudely winning sense of identity.