I know exactly what you're thinking, because it's what I thought --- are you kidding me? --- desecrating Jane Austen's classic with the undead!
I had not read Seth Grahame-Smith's best seller "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies", but obviously he caught on to something, and the end result --- and new film ---is highly entertaining.
Austen's original characters are all present: the headstrong Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James), her beautiful, shy sister Jane (Bella Heathcote), the arrogant Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley), the kind, handsome Mr. Bingly (Douglas Booth) and the wicked George Wickham (Jack Huston). The one major exception to the original is that all of these characters are proficiently trained in martial arts --- especially the Bennet girls.
It's a point of pride for Elizabeth and her sisters that they trained in China instead of Japan like their other Victorian peers. And trained they are --- in hand-to-hand combat, swords, knives, guns --- you name it. But they still must concern themselves with the fact that they could be kicked out of their home if their father Mr. Bennet (Charles Dance) dies, and they have no husbands. It's a clever diabolical twist on Austen's foray into the English class system.
"Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" is a visually stunning film. All of the elegant costumes of adaptations past are showcased, but with the undead a major part of the scenery, it's a period piece with a much different slant. Director Burr Steers, who also adapted the screenplay, and director of photography Remi Adefarasin, have mastered a gorgeous film, and not at all campy, as one might expect.
The cast is superb, with James leading the charge. She has really blossomed into quite the accomplished actress following her turn in "Downton Abbey", and as the ethereal Cinderella last year. She's also outstanding in the serialized "War and Peace" currently being shown on the History Channel. James is a perfect Elizabeth, and her fighting skills are quite impressive.
Do not be deterred by the name. "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" is an exciting change-up on a beloved classic --- and it works.
Opinion: See It Now!
Based on the dubious title of Lily James' new movie, I expected it to be a throwaway film, ridiculous and forgettable. But what a pleasant surprise! "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" is totally enjoyable, featuring a twist on Jane Austen's classic novel. Austen fans may embrace it or find it objectionable.
The Napoleonic Wars of "Pride and Prejudice" are replaced by an epidemic of the undead who ravage the English countryside. The citizenry has learned to defend themselves against the zombies, none more so than the Bennet girls, whose father (Charles Dance) introduces them as his "warrior daughters".
The fiercest of them is also the eldest, Elizabeth (James), who spurns attempts by her mother (Sally Phillips) to arrange a marriage between Elizabeth and anyone who will have her. If you're familiar with Austen's novel, you know that a fellow named Darcy is key to the story. In this version, Mr. Darcy is gallantly portrayed by Sam Riley. His interest in Elizabeth grows exponentially, but he also manages to be the greatest zombie killer around.
As for James, we knew she could act from her role as Lady Rose on "Downton Abbey". We knew she could sing from her excellent turn as Cinderella from last year's hit. Now we find she can handle martial arts and a sword, as well. It appears there is nothing this 26-year-old British starlet can't handle. James is a treat to watch, and I, for one, look forward to her blossoming movie career.
Again, "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" will likely turn off some moviegoers based on the title alone. That would be a shame, since director Burr Steers (he had a small role as an actor in Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction") has graced his movie with gorgeous photography, fabulous costumes, and well-choreographed action sequences that do not wear out their welcome.
This film's PG-13 rating for zombie violence is interesting in that the MPAA must consider decapitation and slaughter of the undead not worthy of an "R". Perhaps the association feels that zombies are cartoonish characters, and not to be taken too seriously. But the filmmakers of "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" were adamant about not creating a spoof, satire or anything that smacked of folly, and they have succeeded.
Opinion: See It Now!