By Michael Kaye
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Movie Review)
Wow, February's looking pretty violent this year at the movies. We have a hard R-rated comic book fiesta with Deadpool, a gritty faith based historical drama about the resurrection of Jesus Christ with Risen, and John Hillcoat's latest crime thriller epic Triple 9! Today, we turn the clock back to 19th Century England, in this zombified genre remix of Jane Austen's classic novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
Here's the story. Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) is a master of martial arts and weaponry and the handsome Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley) is a fierce zombie killer, yet the epitome of upper class prejudice. As the zombie outbreak intensifies, they must swallow their pride and join forces on the blood-soaked battlefield in order to conquer the undead once and for all.
This movie is every bit as ridiculously over the top as you may have guessed from the title alone, but as I'm about to explain, there are a few things that elevate this movie beyond simply one movie length joke. Here are my positives and negatives.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
First off, this movie was incredibly well cast! Admittedly, I'm not as familiar with the original source material as I should be, so I'm merely judging this movie on its own merits. That being said, let's talk about how freaking awesome Lily James is as an action heroine! Anyone who saw Cinderella last year and/or is already familiar with her work on Downton Abbey know how talented of an actress she is, but the fact that she's able to play this role as straight as she can while also acknowledging the humor in the premise earns her a few more brownie points! Same goes for the rest of the Bennet family, her sisters Jane, Lydia and Mary, and the parents, played by veteran character actors Sally Phillips and Charles Dance! As unlikeable as his character was at first, I cannot deny that Sam Riley crushed it as Mr. Darcy, and Jack Houston made an excellent antagonist as George Wickham!
The production design was another highlight for sure! You should know by now how much of a sucker I am for a good period piece, especially when you get to blend a classic British drama with the zombie apocalypse! I was surprised at how well the two seemed to blend together while hardly seeming out of place.
But the main reason everyone wants to go see this movie is quite simple: they wanna see badass zombie slaying ladies in action! And sure enough, this movie delivers on that promise, and who knew Burr Steers could direct action so well!
That's really all I have to say about the positives. If you're well aware of what you're getting into, then what I'm about to say next may not bother you as much. However, as a film fan, here are two areas that I wish could have been improved upon.
Improvement #1: make this movie rated R. This movie lacked a certain edge that most zombie movies had in terms of the violence. Not that I was looking for an absolute gorefest, but the action scenes were a little too polished.
Improvement #2: how about another pass at the screenplay. I commend writer/director Burr Steers for the job he did at blending together the two different genres within in the film, but a huge missed opportunity was providing further commentary using the zombies. Is it possible that I'm asking too much of this film, since nobody has really mastered zombies better than George A. Romero? The only person who's come close was Edgar Wright with Shaun of the Dead, and even that was played up more for laughs! Aside from Matt Smith's Mr. Collins providing some mild comic relief, the only real laughs came from the absurdity of the premise.
The Verdict: Quite enjoyable! 67%
Despite my problems, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is exactly the movie you wanted it to be! Is it perfect? Hell no, but was it a fun watch? Absolutely! I'm very curious to see where Burr Steers takes his career, and the same goes for Lily James! This sure was a fun way to kick off the month of tough love, but stay tuned for more to come!