2nd review of the year. Only took a few weeks for the cinematic ball to get rolling to things I want to see. Per the usual rules, I have not read the book here – either of them. Either being Jane Austens original Pride and Prejudice or Seth Grahame-Smith’s zombie “cover” of her material. Now SGS is known to us thanks to the train wreck that was Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, and I was thankful to not see his name in the writing or directors credit. He may write a good novel, but not so much on the film material. Unsurprisingly my tastes do not go for the period or romantic dramatic style film, so Austen and her body of work is and shall remain a mystery to me for some time. I did, however, watch Pride and Prejudice (2005 Kiera Knightley/Matthew Macfadyen) a few weeks ago when a friend was over and put it on while I was playing Fallout. I admit. I enjoyed it far more than I ever anticipated. It was shot so remarkably well, music, acting, everything top notch. I have absolutely no idea how that director gave us last years Pan.
So how was this movie?
Well, we’ve covered who wrote the book, who added zombies to the book, and who shouldn’t touch it as a movie. The man who did is named Burr Steers, as both screenplay credit and director. Not familiar with the name? Don’t expect you to be with two Zac Efron movies, no one I know of saw to his credit, 17 again and Charlie St. Cloud. Having watched the 2005 film adaptation made me judge what I saw far less harshly than I would. The dialogue was stilted, the actors stiff as a corpse, and the pacing was beyond awkward. Just like the source material. Honestly, the ability to match parallels between the last adaptation of the real source material and this one really allowed me to acknowledge the designs in this movie which would be painful otherwise were purely intentional. Changes must be made to incorporate zombies into the structure and with that a new world history which is glossed over nicely; but all in all the film does a remarkable job of being in step with the materials previously published. A feat that must be given credit to Seth Grahame-Smith and Steers himself.
From an actors point of view, Lily James shines. I thought she was a saving grace in Cinderella and I can tell now the critique there squarely falls on the production. The movie lives and breathes around her performance; she is as capable of the romance, the language, and action simultaneously. She does quite a bit with her eyes, which is a requirement for the role of Elizabeth Bennet. She was absolutely believable for both her battle prowess and will. I really want her to have a long and distinguished career in good movies; though her next film has Jai Courtney so I worry there. Sam Riley, Diaval from Maleficent, whom I loved there and love here. What is it with the leads in this film being the standouts in previous Disney live-action adaptations? His Mister…sorry Colonel Darcy, is engaging despite the required stiffness. He too does a lot with subtle expressions that are all too intentional and very well delivered. Two other roles are also handled well by Douglas Booth (Jupiter Ascending) as Mr. Bingley and Jack Huston (George Wickham); both of whom I could deal with more of.
Rounding out the cast in supporting roles are some true heavies who have minor, but important roles, such as The Doctor (Matt Smith) as Parson Collins, and two Game of Thrones alumni in Charles Dance and Lena Headey. Dance gets to be nice this time as Mister Bennet, while Heady continues to be one of the scariest people on screen as Lady Catherine deBourgh. All three castings were absolutely perfect and all three easily let you know THEY were on screen in just the right ways.
Costuming was solid, a little too much emphasis on being sexy a couple of times, but overall beautiful as the weapons being carried. Sets were good, but I could tell when the budget was thin as some shots that were supposed to be different looked the same just from another angle; but I could be wrong. The fight choreography was good and gave us a scene that in my mind rivals the Zorro fight between Banderas and Zeta-Jones. A little more steady cam would have been nice. Some more creativity in the shots would have been nice beyond the opening sequence. Transitions were handled really well. The make up effects were also top notch. There’s a lot of trainees in the credits, but the film really was one of the better looking zombie films I’ve seen.
For a movie that has been in production hell and switched directors multiple times; this is actually pretty good. The more I talk about it the more I find myself liking it and overlooking its flaws – which are there. It isn’t risky. It isn’t particularly daring with a PG-13 rating, but despite that…it’s watchable.
That said, this is a Zombie movie for fans of Pride and Prejudice. This is not necessarily a zombie movie for someone who hates P&P or otherwise can’t stand a more british drama style pacing. If you DO like Downton Abbey or other British drama’s and also like Zombies this may be right up your alley.
It wasn’t particularly scary or funny, but it was entertaining. I enjoyed myself and really isn’t that what you are supposed to do at the movies?