Well, I did it. Today I went to see Pride + Prejudice + Zombies. Previously I read the book. I debated about reviewing it here in this forum, but honestly, I was offended that the author Seth Grahame - Smith had used the original book, complete with much of the dialog and narrative to build his own novel. Granted he gave credit to Jane Austen, but as a devotee of the original work, I wasn't sure how I felt about that.
Today the film put it all in perspective. Yes, the basic story is there - the five Bennet sisters live with their marriage-minded mother and their bemused father. Each of them knowing her purpose in life is to marry. Enter Mr. Bingley, his friend Mr. Darcy, eventually George Wickham, and the Reverend Mr. Collins.
So far so good, right? Yes, but this England is a far cry from Austen's land of restrictive manners among the gentry. In this England, zombies are growing in number. Men and women are encouraged by their king to study "the deadly arts." Read that Asian martial arts...The most snobbish among the aristocratic study in Kyoto, Japan. The ones who want the best training study in China with Shaolin monks. Thereby comes the friction between Darcy and Elizabeth. He's a student and proponent of the Kyoto school while she is Shaolin trained. Plus women are expected to cease their "warrior ways" when they marry in this cockeyed version of England. Elizabeth vows she will never stop fighting.
The film wasn't as bloody as the book. Most of the scenes of Zombie attacks were muted with long shots, camera filters, or the use of night settings.
The film's action and plot elements differed from the novel which surprised me. It was a very different story. It tells the tale of an upcoming Zombie apocalypse and the four Zombie horsemen who will signal the end times.
I have to admit I loved the scene of the Bennet sisters, all five of them, dressing for the ball at Netherfield, with knives hidden in their garters, along with primitive firearms. When the inevitable attack comes, they become a formidable group with choreographed fighting in which the camera stays on the sisters, not their assailants. It was a great scene.
There is also combat between Elizabeth and Darcy when he first proposes marriage to her. The subsequent fight is sexy and fun, the likes of which we rarely see in films.
Notable among the cast are the following:
Bella Heathcote - who played Johnny Depp's love interest in Dark Shadows, plays Jane Bennet, the eldest sister. Ms. Heathcote is ethereally beautiful and is a surprisingly spunky Jane, second only to her sister Elizabeth as a warrior.
Lily James stars as Elizabeth Bennet. She is up to the challenge of the role, and a challenge it is, both physically and emotionally. According to what I read on the Web, Natalie Portman was originally slated to play the part but had to back out due to scheduling conflicts. She still gets producer credit.
Sam Riley plays Mr. Darcy, who makes an immediate first impression. He is a clever, great warrior who is a colonel in the British military. He is attracted against his will to Miss Elizabeth Bennet, with the added problem of her Shaolin training.
Douglas Booth plays Mr. Bingley, not the warrior his friend is. He is a handsome young man, well matched with the lovely Miss Heathcote. He does a heroic turn in the climax of the story.
Jack Huston plays the scheming Mr. Wickham. One of my favorite contemporary actors, memorable for his role as Richard Harrow, the horribly wounded WWI vet in HBO's series Boardwalk Empire, he makes an evil villain indeed.
Lena Headey, known as the dangerous matriarch of the Lannister clan in Game of Thrones, does a great job as Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Darcy's aunt. The premier female warrior in all of England, she is an amazing woman, much more compassionate than the original Miss Austen penned. Ms. Headey created a memorable character.
For me, Matt Smith, as the Reverend Mr. Collins, stole the show. Mr. Collins is usually played as a stuffy little obnoxious man. Smith's interpretation was a bit different. He was a hoot. For you Whovians out there, of course he was the eleventh actor to play the Doctor in the venerable series. His portrayal of Mr. Collins has elements of the Doctor, but is much more obnoxious and unctuous (love that word!) He is a delight as he performs the double wedding at the end of the film.
Now then, I am usually not into spoilers, but I will say, if you leave when the credits begin to roll, you will miss a very important scene. So don't be fooled when the cast credits start to roll...The film isn't concluded yet. There might be a sequel, that's all I'm sayin'.
I know there are some of you out there who will never willingly see any Zombie movie, but for the rest of you, this is a fun one, very well done.
I recommend it.
Like with any such film, leave your belief system at the door, get some popcorn, and enjoy the ride.
Until next time...