Monday, February 8, 2016

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Review

Zombies are an oversaturated subject in any medium of entertainment. It seems each year there's a new film, tv show, video game and so on that tries to pull off an undead tale. I mean who can blame them, they sell extremely well (see: the Walking Dead), and any good businessman will tell you to follow the money. But consumers are beginning to catch on that the industry is beginning to beat a dead (ha) horse with the whole post-apocalyptic, infection outbreak tale from any point of view. If a movie is to succeed with zombies, its really going to have to innovate. And if critics gave out awards solely on creativity regardless of the outcome, I'm sure this film would get a nomination or two.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is based on the Seth Grahame-Smith novel of the same name, which is based off of the Jane Austin novel of the same name (minus the zombies). It follows the same characters of Ms. Austin's world renowned novel about coming of age of a young woman in Victorian England, except in this one, zombies. We are introduced to this world with the understanding that there have been zombies for nearly one hundred years, and everyone is so accustom to it, that killing zombies is a practically routine task. So routine that fathers send daughters off to East Asia to learn martial arts and combat in order to protect themselves.  Depending on where they're sent sort of describes the social status of the respective young lady. This is Writer/Director Burr Steers' only real play on the whole social/finical situation of Victorian England in the film (I have not read the novel the film is based on, so perhaps there in more in there). We follow Elizabeth Bennet (played by Lily James), the second of five Bennet sisters, and arguably the most head strong of them all. She in thrust into the world of high society by her parents, and tasked into finding a suitor. She is pushed very hard into marring a Parson (played by Matt Smith//best character in the film), is at odds with a well off and capable yet jarringly apathetic Mr. Darcy (played by Sam Riley) and falls into favor for the charming and mysterious George Wickham (played by Jack Huston). That's about as much as I can write about the story before you can begin to piece together the rest of the film. Not that I'm spoiling anything but that it's a pretty predictable story arch.

What really had me interested in this movie was the tone. There are so many ways you can go about presenting this film: serious, gruesome, hammy, over the top. With the name of the title, one would expect it to be a ham fest with the film not taking itself seriously at all. However, the movie subdues itself at times, and there are some genuinely chilling and shocking moments in this film. And yet at the same time there are moments where the movie gets over the top and self aware. I think it found a surprisingly nice balance between the horror and the humor as you will get your fair share of laughs and shrieks. There is a humorous juxtaposition of high society England and gorey disgusting zombies that kind of exposes how ridiculous of a time it was back then to sort of use your daughters as power pieces. One other aspect I enjoyed, that probably is more due to the books credit than the films, is how the zombies were portrayed. When people turn into zombies they are not immediately brain dead monsters, and they can in fact hide and function in normal society. It was a very interesting approach and I wish it was explored even further.

However, the film seriously suffers in the writing department. It felt like the movie had too much going for it with the source material and it got a bit overwhelmed. It spent a lot of time with exposition, which I did appreciate since I am not too familiar with the world, but there wasn't a fluid transition into the climax. One minute the zombies are sort of just around in the background as a nuisance, the next there's an all out war, and the movie took no time to explain how this happened. And there were some elements that were introduced that were kinda swept aside immediately after (the Lazarus Church). Not to mention how cliche and predictable (pretentious statement alert) the third act was. Not that I was expecting Citizen Kane out of this thing, but I was so impressed with how well the film immersed me initially that I was disappointed with how things ended up. It doesn't help that this film was dumb'd down to a PG13 rating when it desperately asked for an R rating (although I will say it did the best it could for what it had to work with).

Cinematography, set and costume design were about what you'd expect in a film like this. The makeup of the zombies is top notch (that one booger zombie) and thankfully there are more practical effects than CGI. The action choreography was above average but nothing to write home about (better than a shaky cam but not as good as the church scene in Kingsman: Secret Service). I especially enjoyed the acting, all the British quips and mannerisms really add to the charm of the film (Matt Smith steals the show). This is clearly a film that had a good amount of effort put into it.

I wouldn't call it a complete shame that it turned out the way it did. It's very admirable for what the movie promises to be. I would say the only shame was the lack of marketing budget for this movie because the only ones who will probably see it are fans of the book (5.2 mil opening weekend yikes). I think it accomplished what it set out to do which was entertain. I like to pick apart films, and praise or chastise their aspects, but at the end of the day this movie isn't trying to do more than its advertised. There's not a whole lot of subtext or talking points of the movie (unless you count that stupid cop out post credits scene). Oh yeah that ending kind of annoying... Oh well it doesn't kill the movie where it stands, but rather anchors it in its place as a potential future cult film that some future mainstream hater will dig up and claim this to be the underrated gem of our generation. For now though, it's aite. 6.5/10