‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ Review

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Director: Burr Steers

Writer: Burr Steers

Cast: Lily James, Sam Riley, Bella Heathcote, Ellie Bamber, Millie Brady, Suki Waterhouse, Douglas Booth, Sally Philips, Charles Dance, Jack Huston, Matt Smith, and Lena Headey

Synopsis: Jane Austen’s classic tale of the tangled relationships between lovers from different social classes in 19th century England is faced with a new challenge – and army of undead zombies.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There is a very short scene in the middle of the credits*

 

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has had a very troubled and long production. Natalie Portman was originally set to star until she dropped out because of scheduling conflicts – although she stayed on as a producer – and David O. Russell was going to direct until he dropped out due to scheduling conflicts as well. Lily Collins was then going to replace Portman but turned it down, and then the studio landed on Burr Steers to finally direct. What we finally ended up getting was a better than expected adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s take on Jane Austen’s classic story of “Pride and Prejudice.” Of course, one has to get over the concept that zombies are added into a classic novel, and if you can get over that, then you’ll enjoy the film a hell of a lot more.

Just like the original – the Jane Austen story – Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is set in 19th century England and places its focus on Elizabeth Bennet (James) and her sisters: Jane (Heathcote), Lydia (Bamber), Mary (Brady), and Kitty (Waterhouse). Their mother, played by Sally Phillips, is determined to find them wealthy and eligible suitors so they can get married, since once their father dies, they get nothing. Of course, Elizabeth is very independent and headstrong with little to no interest in giving up her swords and martial arts training to be a married woman and to follow the norm of society. However, during all this, zombies – a term they actually use in the film – are overtaking England. This is where changes into the Austen’s story take place and where Grahame-Smith’s take kicks in.

From Left to Right: Ellie Bamber, Bella Heathcote, Lily James, Suki Waterhouse, and Millie Brady

The Bennet Sisters have been trained since they were girls and thanks to their father, played by Charles Dance, were sent to be trained in China, were the “wise” parents send their children to train as opposed to the rich parents who send their children to Japan. Certain families have gone the countryside to hide under their lands which includes the Bennet’s. When Mrs. Bennet finds out a new wealthy suitor in Mr. Bingley (Booth) has arrived from the warfront, they go to a ball where Bingley and Jane fall for each other. At that same party, Elizabeth meets Mr. Darcy (Riley), now a general in the army against the undead. The love story between them starts off as standoffish and trying to up one another every chance they can get. However, when George Wickham, a lieutenant in the army and one that has a past with Darcy comes into town, Elizabeth starts to fall for him, and where the love story starts to take place. Of course, everything comes to head once the story picks up in the final act that leads to an explosive and its own spin on the love story ending.

Sam Riley and Douglas Booth

Again, if you can get past the concept of zombies being injected into the story and the fact that now all the characters know martial arts and fight with swords, then sitting through the movie will be a hell of a lot better. However, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a pretty enjoyable and fun movie anyway. Director Burr Steers and Co. do a great job of balancing the different tones of action, horror, and comedy and make them blend together fairly well. The tonal differences could have really hurt the film, but thankfully Steers control the tones and make them work for the film instead of against it.

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That’s not to say that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies isn’t without its faults and missteps. The film is good, but could have been better with some better pacing in the middle of the film and expanding some of the new concepts they bring in that includes a Horsemen of the Apocalypse angle that leads nowhere expect some nice visuals. Some visuals do work, while others fall flat especially an early one in the film, but for some it doesn’t help that some scenes are very poorly lit. The low lighting really makes one particularly scene hard to see anything, which doesn’t help since the scene feels like it’s important scene, but since we can’t see anything, the scene just fails.

Lena Headey

Jack Huston’s Wickham also falls a bit flat, although his story with Darcy is solid, it’s a bit rushed so the emotional impact and feeling fails to grab a huge amount of attention. Also felling underwhelming is Lena Headey’s character Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Heady also has a few scenes in the film, but none of them really stick out too much. It’s a shame really since her character is described as one of the deadliest and most skilled swordswomen in England, which is accompanied with a nice visual, but other than that, the character doesn’t really go anyway.

Riley, Matt Smith and James

As for the rest of the cast, they all do well with the material presented in front of them. Lily James nails Elizabeth Bennet is every way possible, making her easy to root for and a kickass character at that. Sam Riley’s Mr. Darcy is one of the characters you grow to like as he comes off as a bit full of himself, but sees his actions as necessary to protect everyone from the zombie plague. Bella Heathcote’s Jane Bennet gets really the third billing of the movie since her arc with Douglas Booth’s Mr. Bingley is the main arc in the first act of the film, although they both disappear during the middle of the film in order to drawn Elizabeth and Darcy’s arc. The other three sisters are a bit interchangeable unless you remember who’s playing who. Matt Smith, who plays Parson Collins, is a big highlight in every scene he’s in and could easily steal the film for some people.

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All in all, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies a hell of a lot of fun and more enjoyable than some will give it credit for. While it fails on some levels, like pacing and some underdeveloped scenes, that stop it from being great, everyone involved make the crazy concept worth the watch. If zombie action with a little classic romance is your thing, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies should fill that right up.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

4 out of 5

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‘World War Z’ Review

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Dir: Marc Forster (Finding Neverland, Quantum of Solace)

Cast: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, Fana Mokoena and David Morse

Synopsis: United Nations employee Gerry Lane traverses the world in a race against time to stop the Zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments, and threatening to destroy humanity itself.

*Review Note: This is a non-spoiler review as always.*

Well, it’s finally here. The anticipated adaptation of Max Brooks famous zombie book World War Z. With its very troubled production, Brad Pitt and director Marc Forster not talking to one another, going way over budget, and bringing writers to fix the third act after the movie had been done filming, the movie is out and surprisingly…isn’t too bad.

The film, which Pitt also produced, is designed to be less a horror movie and instead is a globe-spanning, international thriller, with zombies in it. Unlike other zombies movies where the cast is some just some familiar faces that we may or may not see again, this one has Brad Pitt front and center and along with other well known familiar faces thrown in as one off characters. Now, before I go more into the review I do want to say this. As much as we love Brooks’ book (which if you haven’t read you really should) the movie is nothing like the book. Sure there are some moments where the movie throws book readers a bone but the movie really is its own thing. So if you’re a fan of the book, put away you’re expectations and just enjoy for what the movie is. A good fun ride.

Gerry Lane (Pitt) is bought in by his former employer of the U.N to search of an answer to how to stop the plague of zombies that has taken over the world. And if you’re worried that the film would take to long to get to the action you’d be mistaken. After establishing some moments with his family the action starts almost right away. The scale of the zombie outbreak in the city Gerry and his family are in make the familiar zombie take over feel a bit fresh, even while we quickly realize that this film will not be offering up much blood, which didn’t really bother me but will probably bother most zombie (or gore-fanatics’).

Eventually, Gerry and his family make it to the safety of a military fleet at sea, but his old boss wants him back on the job. Sure, his wife and kids are safe with the fleet but Pitt doesn’t want to leave his family but is pushed to and makes his sub-plot with his family a bit more important. Although Mireille Enos (The Killing) who plays Pitt’s wife doesn’t really do much besides wait around with their children.

Now the much talked about third act that was re-worked by Damon Lindelof (Lost, Prometheus, Star Trek Into Darkness) and Drew Goddard (Lost, The Cabin in the Woods) is hit and miss. This part is where most of the tension is but some will see it as dumb, generic, or dare I say even fun. You can also tell if you pay close attention to the rest of the movie that this part was done by different writers but it shouldn’t take you out of the movie.

Now the zombies. This will divide audience since every time a zombie movie comes out everybody seems to complain about them. We’ve seen in the ads the CGI fast movie zombies, there are a lot of them, but we do get some slow moving zombies for brief periods. Although one of the troubles the production had was the design of them, which you can sometimes tell when we get close up shots. As for the CGI zombies it does get a bit clucky at times but when you see the mountains of undead swarm like human-sized insects it kind of works.

Zombie fans (or horror fans) will probably also see the occasional element of pops up, although some are out of the blue. But largely, World War Z is less a zombie movie than it is an intense thriller that just happens to have zombies all over the place. The film’s final moments hint at the possibility of a sequel which honestly I won’t mind seeing, especially if it goes the actual way of the book.

All in all, World War Z has its hit and misses (more hits for me personally) and if you’re a fan of the book and are able to put the book aside (which you should to make the viewing better) you will possibly enjoy the movie.
World War Z

4 out of 5