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.


Popular posts from this blog

You were this amazing occidental samurai.

Ricochet (1991) (SPOILERS) You have to wonder at Denzel Washington’s agent at this point in the actor’s career. He’d recently won his first Oscar for Glory , yet followed it with less-than-glorious heart-transplant ghost comedy Heart Condition (Bob Hoskins’ racist cop receives Washington’s dead lawyer’s ticker; a recipe for hijinks!) Not long after, he dipped his tentative toe in the action arena with this Joel Silver production; Denzel has made his share of action fare since, of course, most of it serviceable if unremarkable, but none of it comes near to delivering the schlocky excesses of Ricochet , a movie at once ingenious and risible in its plot permutations, performances and production profligacy.

No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.

The Matrix  (1999) (SPOILERS) Twenty years on, and the articles are on the defining nature of The Matrix are piling up, most of them touching on how its world has become a reality, or maybe always was one. At the time, its premise was engaging enough, but it was the sum total of the package that cast a spell – the bullet time, the fashions, the soundtrack, the comic book-as-live-action framing and styling – not to mention it being probably the first movie to embrace and reflect the burgeoning Internet ( Hackers doesn’t really count), and subsequently to really ride the crest of the DVD boom wave. And now? Now it’s still really, really good.

Well, something’s broke on your daddy’s spaceship.

Apollo 13 (1995) (SPOILERS) The NASA propaganda movie to end all NASA propaganda movies. Their original conception of the perilous Apollo 13 mission deserves due credit in itself; what better way to bolster waning interest in slightly naff perambulations around a TV studio than to manufacture a crisis event, one emphasising the absurd fragility of the alleged non-terrestrial excursions and the indomitable force that is “science” in achieving them? Apollo 13 the lunar mission was tailor made for Apollo 13 the movie version – make believe the make-believe – and who could have been better to lead this fantasy ride than Guantanamo Hanks at his all-American popularity peak?

We’ve got the best ball and chain in the world. Your ass.

Wedlock (1991) (SPOILERS) The futuristic prison movie seemed possessed of a particular cachet around this time, quite possibly sparked by the grisly possibilities of hi-tech disincentives to escape. On that front, HBO TV movie Wedlock more than delivers its FX money shot. Elsewhere, it’s less sure of itself, rather fumbling when it exchanges prison tropes for fugitives-on-the-run ones.

I can’t be the worst. What about that hotdog one?

Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) (SPOILERS) It would have been a merciful release, had the title card “ The End ”, flashing on screen a little before the ninety-minute mark, not been a false dawn. True, I would still have been unable to swab the bloody dildoes fight from my mind, but at least Everything Everywhere All at Once would have been short. Indeed, by the actual end I was put in mind of a line spoken by co-star James Wong in one of his most indelible roles: “ Now this really pisses me off to no end ”. Or to put it another way, Everything Everywhere All at Once rubbed me up the wrong which way quite a lot of most of the time.

Drank the red. Good for you.

Morbius (2022) (SPOILERS) Generic isn’t necessarily a slur. Not if, by implication, it’s suggestive of the kind of movie made twenty years ago, when the alternative is the kind of super-woke content Disney currently prioritises. Unfortunately, after a reasonable first hour, Morbius descends so resignedly into such unmoderated formula that you’re left with a too-clear image of Sony’s Spider-Verse when it lacks a larger-than-life performer (Tom Hardy, for example) at the centre of any given vehicle.

So, you’re telling me that NASA is going to kill the President of the United States with an earthquake?

Conspiracy Theory (1997) (SPOILERS) Mel Gibson’s official rehabilitation occurred with the announcement of 2016’s Oscar nominations, when Hacksaw Ridge garnered six nods, including Mel as director. Obviously, many refuse to be persuaded that there’s any legitimate atonement for the things someone says. They probably weren’t even convinced by Mel’s appearance in Daddy’s Home 2 , an act of abject obeisance if ever there was one. In other circles, though, Gibbo, or Mad Mel, is venerated as a saviour unsullied by the depraved Hollywood machine, one of the brave few who would not allow them to take his freedom. Or at least, his values. Of course, that’s frequently based on alleged comments he made, ones it’s highly likely he didn’t. But doesn’t that rather appeal to the premise of his 23-year-old star vehicle Conspiracy Theory , in which “ A good conspiracy theory is an unproveable one ”?

Twenty dwarves took turns doing handstands on the carpet.

Bugsy (1991) (SPOILERS) Bugsy is very much a Warren Beatty vanity project (aren’t they all, even the ones that don’t seem that way on the surface?), to the extent of his playing a title character a decade and a half younger than him. As such, it makes sense that producer Warren’s choice of director wouldn’t be inclined to overshadow star Warren, but the effect is to end up with a movie that, for all its considerable merits (including a script from James Toback chock full of incident), never really feels quite focussed, that it’s destined to lead anywhere, even if we know where it’s going.

He’ll regret it to his dying day, if ever he lives that long.

The Quiet Man (1952) (SPOILERS) The John Wayne & John Ford film for those who don’t like John Wayne & John Ford films? The Quiet Man takes its cues from Ford’s earlier How Green Was My Valley in terms of, well less Anglophile and Hibernophile and Cambrophile nostalgia respectively for past times, climes and heritage, as Wayne’s pugilist returns to his family seat and stirs up a hot bed of emotions, not least with Maureen O’Hara’s red-headed hothead. The result is a very likeable movie, for all its inculcated Oirishness and studied eccentricity.

He doesn’t want to lead you. He just wants you to follow.

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (2022) (SPOILERS) The general failing of the prequel concept is a fairly self-evident one; it’s spurred by the desire to cash in, rather than to tell a story. This is why so few prequels, in any form, are worth the viewer/reader/listener’s time, in and of themselves. At best, they tend to be something of a well-rehearsed fait accompli. In the movie medium, even when there is material that withstands closer inspection (the Star Wars prequels; The Hobbit , if you like), the execution ends up botched. With Fantastic Beasts , there was never a whiff of such lofty purpose, and each subsequent sequel to the first prequel has succeeded only in drawing attention to its prosaic function: keeping franchise flag flying, even at half-mast. Hence Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore , belatedly arriving after twice the envisaged gap between instalments and course-correcting none of the problems present in The Crimes of Grindelwald .