Plot: What’s it about?
A few years ago I was cleaning my bedroom and happened to look on the book shelf that my wife and I have. It’s not that robust, rather just a selection of fairly modern novels that we’ve read. No, it’s not things that require a lot of brainpower and certainly devoid of classics. I’m talking the entire Twilight series, Fifty Shades of Black and I think there’s a copy of Angela’s Ashes in there. Suffice it to say, we’re easily entertained. I noticed a book that had an English lass on it and was putting it back in its place, but noticed that the image looked a bit odd. Sure enough, the title was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith (the image of the book is included). Needless to say, I was a bit intrigued and found out that my eldest stepson had purchased and read it. My curiosity, though piqued, wasn’t enough to get me to sit down and read the book, however. I’d never read the original and still have no desire to, but I am familiar with the iconic name of Mark Darcy. Getting back to my point, the same author of this book also penned Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter so if that was up your alley then this might be as well. Nevertheless, let’s see how this classic holds up when you mix in a bit of the undead.
Caveat – Having never read the novel nor seen the film (or any of its adaptations), I wasn’t really familiar with the plot. This, I feel, is one of the things that turned me off to the movie as I think that the filmmaker’s assumed that everyone had at least a passing knowledge of what the plot was about. I had to rely on the wife to let me know how closely the storyline paralleled the “source material” (quotes used intentionally).
The Zombie invasion is already in full swing with the film begins and offers us a fun bit of world-building to explore as a result. Victorian England exists mostly as we know it. Women still vie for the hands of rich men in marriage as their only real means of upward mobility. But these women also benefit from extended martial arts training. Whether they study with Samurai in Japan or Shaolin Monks in China adds another line of class division among their society (Japan is preferred among the aristocracy). In effect, this means that all of the Bennet sisters, from strong and independent What’shername to young and timid What’shername, know how to kick ass and take care of themselves. Touches like this make me wonder how I could ever sit through this story without the zombie angle.
Zombies or no, this is still a tale of love and marriage. Things get shaken up among the sisters when handsome Mr. Bingley (Douglas Booth) and his pal, renowned zombie killer Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley) show up looking for ladies to marry. Bingley almost immediately falls for one of the girls, Jane (Bella Heathcote), and she for him. Darcy and Elizabeth’s (Lily James) union provides the film with its narrative skeleton. Things gets complicated when George Wickham (Jack Huston) and Parson Collins (Matt Smith, Doctor Who himself) try to win Elizabeth’s hand as well. For being so standoffish and unwilling to play her role as a quiet Victorian lady, Elizabeth is very popular with the dudes. Tea, anyone?
Admittedly this is a one joke movie, but it’s an interesting one joke movie. We’ve become so accustomed to seeing the undead both on the big screen and our television sets, that this is a different take on two age old tales. I still have no idea how closely the movie follows Austen’s novel and I still have no desire to do any fact-finding. This review is on the movie, not the novel. However, given the praise lauded on the novel, I have to assume that it hits fairly close to home. Looking at the main cast, they all do fine jobs in their respective roles. James, who was last seen as a Disney icon in Cinderella, proves she’s got the chops (and is now sporting a much darker hair color) to carry a film. We’ve got a slew of fine English actors and the appearance of Matt Smith is a bit tongue-in-cheek to say the least. There are better zombie movies, at least for me, but I do have to give this one an “A” for originality. I can only imagine what’s next: Wuthering Heights and Werewolves!
Video: How does it look?
Every “zombie” movie seems to have its own look and feel and that’s a good thing. However when the zombies are set against the backdrop of Victorian England (at least I think it’s Victorian England), then it’s uncharted territory. Having said that, Sony usually delivers the goods when it comes to their new titles and this is certainly not an exception. The included 2.40:1 AVC HD image simply oozes (sorry, couldn’t resist) detail from every scene. The costume design, while not the focus of the movie, looks amazing, the detail – particularly in the “unmentionables” is second to none. Even as many zombie films as I’ve been exposed to, it’s quite a sight to see an English lass with her jawbone exposed. A thin, fine layer of grain is evident in a few scenes, but by and large this embodies everything we’ve come to expect from Sony and their day and date Blu-rays (and this title will also be available in 4K/Ultra HD).
Audio: How does it sound?
Now this is where I was caught off guard! The DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack has many moments that really make use of the sound and one of which was very early on when a zombie’s head explodes (due to a bullet hitting it) and I actually jumped in my seat! If that isn’t the epitome of a good soundtrack then I don’t know what is. Vocals are pure and rich, crisp and lack any distortion. The surrounds are also surprisingly active that really give some of the action sequences a jolt. I’d say that this is one of the better soundtracks that I’ve heard in a while and I was not expecting it. Well done!
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Courtship, Class and Carnage: Meet The Cast – The most generic of the supplements, we get some candid comments from the main players in the film, notably Lily James who praises the source material and how she had to play the part. Add in some montages from the movie and you’ve got yourself a featurette!
- From Austen to Zombies: Adapting a Classic – This is the usual faire and tells how Austen’s novel was adapted to the screen with the inclusion of zombies (and Seth Grahame-Smith’s book). We get a look at the casting and how certain “liberties” had to be taken.
- Deleted Scenes – Four total, none really adding to the film in much way.
- Girls Get Ready
- The Netherfield Dance
- Caroline Bingley Showdown
- Mr. Collins Line-o-rama – Sony still continues to do these “Line-o-rama’s” in their releases, but I fail to see the point. However, this one is actually fairly amusing. Mr. Collins, played by Doctor Who’s Matt Smith, was the comic relief in the film and we do get several instances in which he improvised his lines.
- Gag Reel – My usual response is “shenanigans on the set” but my wife wanted to watch this extra. She was like “Hey, gag reel, what’s that?” I said “It’s just the actors messing up on their lines and a lot of laughing.” She still wanted to watch it. About 45 seconds in, she admitted that I was right. So there.
- Featurettes: – The above features from the DVD, plus…
- The Badass Bennet Sisters – As you might expect, this is a look at the ensemble cast and comprised the sisters. Director Burr Steers gives us an overview of the quartet as well as some commentary by the other members of the cast, all praising the ladies.
- Creating the Unmentionables – This is more of a makeup/special effects sequence and we see how the zombies were created and infused into 19th century England.
- Previews – Ghostbusters (2016), The 5th Wave, AMC’s Preacher, The Brothers Grimbsy, The Bronze.
The Bottom Line
As I’ve mentioned a couple of times in this review, I don’t think that this is a bad movie, per se; rather that it relies on the viewer to have an ingrained knowledge of Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. I had none (and have no desire to acquire such knowledge). Having said that, the movie is entertaining and it’s nice to see zombies that can actually talk as opposed to behaving like they do in every other film. The Blu-ray offers up superb audio quality and an above average picture. While the features are a bit passable (all are essentially the same thing), fans might still want to pick this up.