Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

Saturday, February 06, 2016
2009 took a turn for the unexpected for books: a mash-up of classic literature and the supernatural sprang up in publishing. Author Seth Grahame-Smith mixed Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice with zombies, which was followed by Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Back then when I saw the parody novels in bookstores, I didn't know what to think - was it a joke? were classics so uninteresting they had to be remade? Fast forward five years I couldn't wait for this movie, and now I'm jumping on the book as soon as possible.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Hollywood has done its fair share of Pride and Prejudice adaptations. In its most recent version the Regency era is an alternative world where England is coming under siege by zombies. A class system breaks out between the wealthy who can afford to learn defense skills, and those who cannot, as well as humans and zombies. Out in the open countryside where families and villages are overrun with the undead, Mr. Bennet ensures his daughters survival by having them trained in the fine art of war agianst zombies. Meanwhile Mrs. Bennet is up to her usual match-making, ensuring marriage and a safety net for her eldest daughters. Col. Mr. Darcy makes it his number one priority to rid the earth of the undead, especially when his heart is captured by Elizabeth Bennet.

When a movie like this has been done so many times before, it's difficult to not compare new versions to the others - like the 1995 made-for-television version with Colin Firth, or the beloved 2005 version with Keira Knightley. However, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies does a consistent job of not forcing the newer story and its performances into the past.
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With Lily James as the helm as Elizabeth, she is such a ferocious and exciting new star. Her emergence in the live-action tale of Disney's Cinderella, a heroine who was delicate as a flower and taught to be kind to all, put her on the map as a soft and charming actress with plenty of potential waiting to unfold. As Elizabeth, she completely turns heads with not only her characters' sword skills but also stubbornness, passion, and charm. When matched with the Sam Riley as the intense Col. Mr. Darcy, her spirited nature is not weakened or confined to a knight-in-shining-armor. One second she's reluctant or outspoken, the next she's striding into action on a white horse. It's kick-ass.

Like James who will surely be another favorite to long list of actresses who have portrayed Elizabeth, Sam Riley's Darcy is rugged and dashing. The loving and quiet nature of the most recent Darcy played by Matthew McFayden still lingers, but Riley exudes his rigid exterior a bit more strongly. His Darcy is a militant skilled and focused to slay. Burdened with heavier measures than what his heart desires, he's rugged and carries a gentle nature a bit more quietly. Instead restricted by their pride and prejudice as know them to be, but turned on by each others' agency to kill, they become another lively, memorable reiteration of this timeless couple.

Given more ample liveliness to the classic romance between Darcy and Bennet is other awesome and impressive list of characters: lady boss Lena Heady as Lady Catherine, one of the best trained zombie killers with a crew of ninjas, the charismatic Jack Huston as the dubious yet charismatic Mr. Wickham holding a grudge against Mr. Darcy, the innocent-yet-not-to-be-underestimated Bella Heathcote as Jane Bennet, and handsome Douglas Booth as the shy, clumsy Mr. Bingley. And, there's a special mention for Matt Smith whose transformation as Mr. Collins brings humor and quirkiness as the misplaced and unwanted pastor with his sights marrying one of the Bennets.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a great mix of Austen's story we all know so well, just with an extra splash of blood and guts. Director and writer Burr Steers handles what Austen fans love of her famous work and brings a modern twist. Though it might feel strange at first that these two genres have been paired together, Steers doesn't go for the campy route or a straight-up parody; he gives both male and female characters agency to their own destinies, to defend themselves and their loved ones. The action and zombie kills moves seamlessly in the middle of the romance and comedy. As the Bennets and Mr. Darcy manage the threat of zombies at every turn, we're put right into the middle of their relationship and the action. It feels like we're right on the battleground with them; we're allowed to watch some kick-assery unfold as well as a timely courtship. It's one wild ride I can't wait and hope to see again!

6 comments:

  1. You're so spot on Sam Riley's Darcy here. I've adored him since I saw him in "Control" and Douglas Booth..I mean..stunning. Lily James shows us all her bad-assery!! hahahahaha Jack Huston as Wickham is so good. I just had pure FUN watching this movie.. and was completely entertained. Is it the best movie ever? of course not..but I sure hope there is a part 2! :D

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  2. Thank you Peggy! The cast was so good. This was such a wild ride and it did a great job setting up for a sequel. I really hope we get a sequel too!!

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  3. I am a true worshiper of Zombies, pride and prejudice and zombies.

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  4. Ooooh I'm thrilled by what you said about Sam Riley's Darcy! He is rugged and dashing indeed, I am in LOVE. I just reviewed it myself and I had to give it a high score as I also can't wait to see it again. Hope you check it out and we can compare notes. I actually prefer McFayden's Darcy compared to Colin Firth's, but now I have to say now Riley is my favorite Darcy and there's a VERY good reason to his somber mood!

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  5. Thank you Carol! Woop woop to zombies!

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  6. Thank you Ruth! Sam's Darcy was wonderful. I liked that he was a bit rigid but there's warmth underneath his demeanor. McFayden is my preferred choice over Firth too; the later was a bit robotic to me.

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