Is The Walking Dead borrowing ideas from Danny Boyle’s 2002 classic, 28 Days Later, once again? Starring Cillian Murphy and Naomie Harris in breakout roles, 28 Days Later is a zombie movie… even if that tag doesn’t quite match up with the film’s science. Britain might be invaded by rage-infected humans instead of the reanimated dead, but 28 Days Later nonetheless sees Danny Boyle updating timeless zombie tropes for a contemporary audience.
28 Days Later has proved incredibly influential upon the horror and zombie genres, and especially to The Walking Dead. Boyle’s story opens with Cillian Murphy waking from a coma, only to find the apocalypse in full swing and London deserted. The Walking Dead copies this intro almost beat-for-beat, with Rick Grimes recovering from a coma of his own and finding himself in a similarly deserted urban landscape. The first issue of The Walking Dead was published almost a year after 28 Days Later, but Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead creator) maintains the comparison is coincidental, and his first chapter was already written before he saw Boyle’s movie.
Only Kirkman knows for sure whether 28 Days Later impacted The Walking Dead‘s opening sequence, but almost 20 years down the line, the franchise seems to be drawing inspiration from the same source. Walking Dead: World Beyond season 2 offers the series’ closest look yet at the CRM (Civic Republic Military). This powerful faction is led by the authoritarian Elizabeth, who World Beyond season 2 confirms was previously a British attaché for the Ministry of Defense. When the zombie apocalypse began, Elizabeth became convinced that the CRM’s ruthless methods are the only way to save humanity, deluding herself into an almighty savior complex. The CRM’s Lt. Colonel has a cold, rigid demeanor and is quick to punish subversion in her ranks, but she also uses the promise of military safety to get what she wants – in World Beyond‘s case, the cooperation of Hope Bennett. For all her faults, Elizabeth isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty on the front lines, and stands firm behind the belief that the CRM’s end goal of restoring humanity justifies any means.
The more Walking Dead: World Beyond reveals of the CRM, the more the group resemble Christopher Eccleston’s Major West and his British army troops in 28 Days Later. The villains of Boyle’s 2002 story, Major West offers the protagonists safety and security inside a manor house that boasts access to food, weapons, electricity, and running water. Just like Elizabeth and the CRM, however, Major West’s helping hand proves too good to be true. West believes the best way to ensure humanity’s survival is procreation – consensual or otherwise – and he justifies the horrific crimes of rape and murder as necessary measures in extraordinary times. This isn’t a million miles from Elizabeth carrying out genocides in the name of “science.”
There’s clear correlation between 28 Days Later‘s West and Walking Dead: World Beyond‘s Elizabeth, specifically in their characterization, narrative purpose, and overarching goals. The CRM is essentially a much larger version of the British army manor house from 28 Days Later – perhaps what Major West’s camp would’ve turned into if they had 28 months.
It’s strange indeed that two completely separate zombie stories – both released within the same 12-month period – began with their protagonists waking from comas and wandering through eerily deserted cities. That’s a very specific opening, and it’s easy to see why fans would make the comparison. The CRM/British army parallels aren’t quite that conspicuous. Plenty of other zombie movies, TV shows and comics have cast leftover military units as post-apocalyptic villains. The idea certainly isn’t unique to either 28 Days Later or The Walking Dead. Also, the CRM boasts enough unique elements to pose a distinctly different threat in World Beyond, with their resources, structure and methods all deviating from Major West and his men. Nevertheless, it’s plain to see how 28 Days Later continues to inspire the Walking Dead franchise.