Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Review

If I'm being perfectly honest, I'm not a huge fan of Pride and Prejudice. I know I'm not the target audience, but I do know plenty of guys who are Pride and Prejudice fans, so I figure I should start a Pride and Prejudice review by letting you know that. I did actually sit down once and watch the six-hour version of Prejudice and Prejudice once. I told myself that I needed to do that so I can form my own opinion, but man that was possibly the longest six hours of my movie watching career. If I were to sit down and write a review of that, there would be plenty of positive things to say about it, but six hours of pure romance drama is a little more than I can handle. That was about five years ago. Since then I still haven't been courageous enough to give the much shorter Keira Knightley version a shot. One day. But when I first heard that they were doing a movie that added zombies to the Pride and Prejudice story, my face lit up like a little schoolboy. I didn't even care what the reviews were on the movie. I expected them to be bad (and they were), but I just wanted this to be a fun, guilty pleasure movie. That's not asking too much is it? Apparently so, because this movie was a bore.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is actually based on a novel written by Seth Grahame-Smith, who also wrote Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which was adapted into a movie back in 2012. Just looking at the titles of those two stories, you can get an idea of this guy's writing style. They should translate into fun horror comedies where you can just sit back and enjoy. I never actually saw Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, so I can't comment on that movie. I also haven't read the book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, so I can't compare this movie to the novel. I just know that I wanted a fun horror comedy. In fact, a zombie romance movie does exist. It's called Warm Bodies and it was released on the same exact weekend three years ago. Personally I thought that movie did a great job of balancing fun zombie action with believable romance and great comedy. I laughed, I was touched, and I had a ton of fun. That's all I wanted from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I didn't expect much. I just wanted a good balance between zombies and romance with some good laughs. That balance here is the problem. It's way off. Thus while the premise of the movie is a good one, the execution was just terrible and this instead comes off as a big mess.

The movie actually starts off really promising. We get some sort of introduction about how all of this zombie stuff started and I didn't really follow any of that, but who cares. We're in 19th Century England and there are five Bennett sisters who have a mother that is trying her hardest to get them all married off and there are zombies to deal with. That's all I need to know. The movie actually starts off with Mr. Darcy and man this guy is a boss. I don't know if he's a Mr. Darcy that all the girls are going to fall madly in love with, but that's okay. He's just an ordinary dude that cares more about fighting zombies than all this romance jazz and thus he comes off as a very down-to-earth, relatable Mr. Darcy. And the opening scene with him is him walking into a room, detecting a hidden zombie, and beating the living bejeebers out of it was so awesome. That schoolboy grin that I got when this movie was announced was huge during this scene. Then we get introduced to this super boss group of Bennett sisters who aren't just dainty females searching for husbands. They are trained warriors and when there's zombies around, they totally own. At their first dance in the movie, everything is going all hunky-dory with this romance stuff and then zombies show up. All the Bennett sisters pull up their dresses a bit to reveal their hidden swords and they just go to town on the zombies. I was loving life.

In talking about how great Mr. Darcy was in this movie, I also have to mention how awesome his eventual female counterpart is. Elizabeth Bennett. She's also not super invested in this romance stuff and she sure as heck is never accepting a man who demands her to put down her swords when she gets married. That sucks for Matt Smith, but is a huge plus for Mr. Darcy because he is also a zombie fighter. The two were like meant for each other. I don't know why they took the whole movie to figure this out. They should've just noticed that each is a super boss zombie fighter, realized that they have a ton in common, and hook up so we could spend most of the movie watching them fight zombies as a super boss zombie-fighting couple. But no. More on that in a second. Back to Elizabeth Bennett. Or more specifically now, Lily James as Elizabeth Bennett. This sister is on a role right now. Last year I called her the best Cinderella I've seen and now this year I'm calling her the best Elizabeth Bennett. Not only is she so gorgeous, but she's also way down-to-earth and relatable. I feel like I could walk up to her and just be her friend. The fact that she's a super boss zombie fighter makes her even better. She pulls that off so perfectly. Not only would she be perfect in any other live-action princess movie, but this girl could transform into a believable action star. After seeing this movie, I totally want that to happen now.

So yes. This movie started off super strong and I totally believed that I was going to go against the grain with this movie and give it a positive review despite all the crap that has been said about it. That's what I wanted to do. But then the middle of the movie happened. Holy fetch this was a train wreck. We started off with some amazing zombie sequences, but then I swear that this movie went like an hour without any zombies at all. Or when they did show up, they showed up in weird, random spots where they probably shouldn't have shown up. Instead the movie spent a ton of time trying to do justice to the Pride and Prejudice part of the story. This is not inherently bad. But if they were going to go that route, this needed to be done with great precision and fantastic writing. I'm fine with building up a story. I'm fine with waiting a while before introducing our monsters. But man was this bad. The idea behind Pride and Prejudice is more than just a love triangle. It's like a love web. We have a fairly decent-sized group of sisters and we have several males that are introduced that are trying to win their hearts. We go through a lot of drama and a lot of guys hunting after the same girl before they all settle down. There's a reason why the most praised version of this movie is six hours long. There's a ton of story. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies tried to cram it all into 45 minutes before we transitioned into the zombie story. Because it was so poorly done, it ended up being super boring.

Not every second is bad in this middle sequence. The aforementioned Matt Smith from Doctor Who is one of our many males introduced to win the sisters' hearts and he provides some great comic relief as he steals every scene he is in. In fact, he does so good that I wish he were cast as our other lead male opposite Mr. Darcy. Mr. Bingley I think? Whatever his name is, he's the dude who ends up with Jane and the actual guy who played him was nothing more than a pretty face. His acting was bland and his character felt useless. If Matt Smith were playing him, though, that would great! There were also a few other non-Matt Smith scenes that kept my interest. One such scene is when Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth get into an all out fight after his first proposal and quite honestly that might be the most entertaining scene of the whole movie, especially when Matt Smith walked in and saw the aftermath of a destroyed room. I wish more of the movie had the uptempo feel of that scene. That would've been great. Instead we got a great beginning, a mostly boring middle with a few fun scenes scattered throughout, and a really lame ending. Like seriously. I don't want to talk too much about the end, but the whole movie is building up to what you think is going to be an epic zombie fight and literally nothing interesting happens. So much potential with this and it was completely wasted.

I do want to talk about the zombies real quick. I've heard the opinion that the only good zombie movie you can do is an R-rated zombie movie. I disagree. Warm Bodies and World War Z are two great examples of PG-13-rated zombie movies. So it is possible to great with either style. But you have to commit to one way or the other. This movie decided to go for the graphic, disgusting, gruesome zombies with blood and gore splattering everyone when you killed them. But it wanted to do so in a PG-13 movie. Thus zombies didn't show up nearly enough and when they did, most of the attacks were done off screen. We'd see a zombie running at a character, then for the attack we'd either have a shot of that character attacking something or go to fist person zombie mode, then we'd get a shot of the dead zombie on the ground. It wasn't entertaining and it was poorly edited. I could tell they wanted to make this R, but they also wanted the teenage audience to show up on Valentine's Day, so they tried to the R-rated style in a PG-13 movie and it clashed big time. And like I said, there's not satisfying final battle in this movie. There's actually a mid-credits scene that teases a sequel. While I won't spoil that, I will say that this mid-credits scene should've been stretched out for 10-15 minutes and been our final battle. But no. And now that sequel will never happen because this movie was a box office bomb.

In the end, if you want to watch a zombie romance movie this Valentine's Day, I'd recommend that you stay home and re-watch Warm Bodies. That movie is essentially Romeo and Juliet with zombies except with a different ending and they do a great job of balancing zombie action with a believable romance and great comedy. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a great idea, but overall is a very poorly written screenplay that fails to succeed at either of those three. Sure, there's a few sequences of fun zombie action. But they are all in the opening act where the movie didn't hold back. Some of the characters had good romantic chemistry. But most of the Pride and Prejudice part of this movie is very rushed and poorly done, yet it takes up most of the movie. They didn't find a good zombie/romance balance and I think a big part of the problem was that they were trying too hard to keep this movie PG-13, so they shied away from most of the zombie stuff and went about things in a very poorly done style when they did include it. Comedy is there in the movie. I laughed at several moments, but not enough to call this an actual comedy. The acting is great, especially Lily James and Matt Smith. So there is plenty of good, but overall this movie is just wasted potential. My grade for it is a 6/10.

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