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Movie Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (No Spoilers)
As evidenced by the title, I'll be staying away from revealing spoilers. I reveal it's not quite the same as the book, but I'm not getting into what the actual differences (that'll be a post for a later date). Other than that however, you can read safely.
Wow, this film was weird.
I've read the book and am a moderate fan of the original work and film (particuarly 2005's version with Keira Knightly). By me stating that I had read the book, the most fun I had with it was having bought it, brought it to class (as I was in high school at the time), and offered to read from 'my version' while popcorn reading (or something) during Brit Lit class. The book itself was a one-trick pony and it failed to stick with me.
However, this film is actually a bit better. It's certainly not that revolutionary, nor will it draw you to go see it in theaters again, but I think I enjoyed my time with it. I had a mad fit of giggles through the early parts and found most of the comments from other noisier patrons in the theater very entertaining.
The Plot and Synopsis
Assuming you haven't read the book or are familiar with Jane Austen's original work, this installment features the world of humanity in the Regency Period being driven to the point of extinction due to zombies. While the film does focus on the lives of the gentry, almost everyone must be capable of fighting in order to survive. Specifically, the film revolves around the five daughters of the Bennet household in their quest, whether purposeful or unwilling, to be matched up and married. While all this is happening, there is talk and fear of the mindless horde being lead not only by the zombie four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, but the Antichrist as well (trust me though, it's not religiously aimed).
The plot is a little different than the book (for better or worse) but it still largely retains a lot of the dialogue from the original work, carrying on much of the charm that is Jane Austen's quick-witted and sharp dialogue. The plot isn't exactly the film's strong point, but it doesn't really hold it back either.
Lily James (as from Disney's newest version of Cinderella) does a fantastic job as Lizzie Bennet. She delivers the lines expertly and even her choreography for the fight scenes is done in a very believable manner. Her counter, Sam Riley as Mr. Darcy, does a decent job as well although both my wife and I wondered if he wasn't trying his best Batman voice throughout the film (although his character shines in the opening of the flick).
Game of Throne veterans Charles Dance and Lena Headey are in this film as well, although they get very little screentime for a two hour flick, which is depressing. Matt Smith, better known as the Eleventh Doctor from Doctor Who, has the most amusing part, perfecting the timing of his jokes and his physical timing is point.
The rest of the cast does a decent job as backdrop, but the main villain is more than a bit lackluster.
The Tone: Parody vs Serious
This is a complaint for a lot of other similar reviews I've read. The original book seems to be much more of a faithful parody, but the film is clear that while it does take pieces from the adapted book, it doesn't follow it faithfully.
So, what's the tone of the film? I suppose this could be argued. Many times actors will deliver lines without the slightest hint of irony, performing believably in a world filled with zombies and gentrification. Then again, there are a few times it's hard to swallow. There's a quick three second cut of Lena Headey's character (pictured above) rising above a mountain of corpses wielding two katanas, her eyeball recently plucked from its socket as she screams just before the scene shifts abruptly back to Mr. Collins bragging about her regalness. You might find Lily Collins grinning, but is it because her character is supposed to or it's in the realization of what kind of work she's doing? You might find herself unsure when the film is over.
The Aesthetics of the Film
Aside from the shining dialogue, the visuals of the film might be its strongest feature. While many will claim the cast features many attractive faces, it's the attire and cosmetics that really stand out.
The zombies are rightfully disgusting. Not long into the film you'll find a zombie with half its face chewed. In place of a right nostril, there's a kind of snot-puss bubble that pops as it stares back at the camera. It's disgusting and is every bit as potent as The Walking Dead in its prime. Not every scene is as gross as this one (it's definitely stronger and more off-putting at the beginning of the film but it lets up not too long afterwards) but when they are, it's hard hitting.
The wardrobe department does a fantastic job in recreating the Regency Period and retrofitting it with an emphasis on combat and duress. I'm not saying there isn't some impracticalities in some of the outfits the girls fight in (when you see Lizzie Bennet do a somersault in a formal evening gown you might frown) but I was a bit impressed by how much work was put into it.
Trailer for the Film
It's only PG-13! It's actually not that shocking. There's no profanity, and the only real suggestive content (aside from the few clips of the girls arming themselves in their period appropriate undergarments) is during a fight where characters find small bits of their clothes being undone (although this too at most reveals their period appropriate undergarments).
The violence though can sometimes be tinged between parody and brutalness. In one of the opening scenes, we are given the first person perspective of a person turning into a zombie having a broken glass being shoved into its face, a blade severing its neck behind a red filter, all before a character stomps down on our perspective, assumedly smashing the skull like a pumpkin. That's probably as intense as it gets, since you don't see actual human characters being ripped apart as you would any other zombie-centered piece of entertainment.
The film was fine, funny at times, mostly entertaining throughout but it does droop a bit towards the end (despite having original content). Perhaps it shouldn't be 2 full hours, instead dropping about 30 minutes.
I didn't have any specific assumptions or expectations about the film. If you plan on seeing it, you probably shouldn't make an expectation either. It's not a parody work, like the book it's adapted from seems to be, but it doesn't take itself a 100% seriously either, although it might have benefited from pursuing one of those two ends since I'm not really comfortable with classifying it.
Still, it entertained me with its visuals and dialogue, but it can only hold a candle to what is the original Pride and Prejudice. It's far from my favorite zombie flick as well. While it certainly isn't the worst, there are some major stinkers out there, so that's not saying anything.
It's not a theater must-watch. I enjoyed it, but I can't encourage a lot of people to see it right away. Maybe catch it in Redbox, or catch a showing of it whenever it comes on television or Netflix. It's not bad, but no need to rush to see it.
- Maybe 90% serious, 10% parody
- Strong visuals, great delivery of dialogue
- Under-utilizes materials (Charles Dance, Lena Headey, Matt Smith)
- Doesn't follow the book, which is good and bad