Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

 

Released: February 5, 2016. Directed by: Burr Steers. Starring: Lily James, Sam Riley, Jack Huston. Runtime: 1hr, 48 min.

When pride met prejudice in the 1813 Jane Austen novel, there were most certainly no zombies. Fast forward to the zombie craze in cinema over 200 years later, and the storyline is full of ‘em. Hey, at least PPZ sounds cool.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies concerns the two primary characters Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam D’Arcy, who are essentially the same as the original novel, but they both have a penchant for killing zombies.

In the film, Bennett likes the look of D’Arcy, smiling at him and D’Arcy observes that she is muscular but “not so much to look unfeminine.”

What ensues is a hell of a lot of hate between the two that somehow boils into romance. And there’s a hell of a lot of zombies that seemed to come after the Black Plague and they threaten to take over England in the early 1800s.

This version is based on the novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith (co-written by Jane Austen, who I guess came back from the dead to help write it), and it’s as mediocre as you might expect.

It aspires to be harmless entertainment in the likes of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, but it really isn’t much fun.

The narratives are kind-of bland. Elizabeth still doesn’t like the idea of being pushed into a marriage without affection – but another reason is because she doesn’t want to trade a sword for a ring.

Women also can’t be well-trained and well-educated, it’s one or the other. Elizabeth also learned zombie attack training in China, instead of Japan where the higher social class studied their fighting skills.

The character sisters in this film, while they have a good chemistry, talk about their love lives over choreographed sword fights instead of just around a table – so that amps up the dialogue ever-so-slightly. The director, Burr Steers (who also penned the adapted screenplay) ensures to show a lot of skin and heaving bosoms of the lovely sisters.

It’s relatively new territory for Steers, but he does well with the fight scenes, but there still isn’t a lot of excitement in the big action set pieces. Still: It’s decent for a guy whose previous credits are directing Zac Efron in teen comedy 17 Again and the moody drama Charlie St. Cloud.

The dialogue is decidedly pretentious, trading something like, “Dude, the undead are rising,” to “the undead reach out from beneath the wet Earth.” Or something like that.

The costume, set and production designs are attractive, but usually come with the territory for period pieces.

Lena Headey has a turn as a sadistic Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who is a famed zombie slayer who sports an eye patch.

Her introduction is a brief, random 10-second thing of her screaming in victory on top of a pile of zombies with her eye newly missing. That is one way to assert that she is a dominant woman not to be crossed.

The exchanges between characters are forgettable and so is the chemistry between leads Lily James (Cinderella) and Sam Riley (Maleficent), even though they do fine separately.

The PG-13 zombie violence is a high point of the film – which isn’t saying much because it’s tame.

Many are coming for the zombies, but it’s very much a boring romance. It could be called a rom-zom, with the zom in zombies the only redeemer.

2 outta 5

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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Abraham Lincoln - Vampire HunterAbraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Release Date: June 22, 2012

Director: Timur Bekmambetov

Stars: Benjamin Walker, Rufus Sewell, Dominic Cooper

Runtime: 105 min

Tagline: Are you a patriot or a vampire?

Who would have thought a sort of Van Helsing was once ruler of the free world…

At the age of 9, Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) witnesses his mother being killed by a vampire, Jack Barts. He swears a route of vengeance, where he unsuccessfully tries to kill Barts ten years later. In the process, he meets Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper) he becomes his mentor on how to kill the vampires of the night. There’s a catch: Lincoln may only kill those vampires that Sturgess says he can. He then moves to Springfield, where he gets reunited with his long-time friend, Will Johnson (Anthony Mackie) and he meets his future wife, Mary (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Eventually, when he becomes the President of the United States, he learns that vampires are the real opponents of his own forces. As a result, he mounts a campaign to defeat them and the man behind the plan, Adam (not a good vampire name, eh? He’s portrayed by Rufus Sewell).

So, apparently… Lincoln is the Paul Bunyan of vampire hunters? Who would have thunk it! Being a vampire hunter comes with its costs though – they can’t have any family or friends. Of course, Abe eventually breaks that promise. He has to be honest, though, right? This does offer sort of a fun twist on one of America’s greatest leaders.

However, it often tries to juggle historical accuracies and the pure myth of Lincoln being a freaking vampire hunter. It just doesn’t work out too well. It feels lob-sided in areas, and that isn’t good for this sort of fun film that’s supposed to be exciting and not thought-provoking at all. We don’t want to think, and it should focus more and Lincoln hunting vampires. It does try to develop the plot and the characters, so for that, it’s easy to respect. It certainly is better than 2010’s Jonah Hex. However, they definitely should have thrown most historical accuracies, they tried to stay true to, completely out the window. Or, simply just scrap them altogether like Quentin Tarantino did with Inglourious Basterds.

The relationship between Lincoln and everyone else often gets peculiar. In real life, he seems like he would have been more open to those around him – even though he would have been quite busy. He wouldn’t have been this peculiar towards them, but he is a vampire hunter, of course… The plot is actually well-developed, and it isn’t just mindless vampire hunting (well, it sometimes is, but it has a certain purpose [mainly entertainment]) but it loses its preferrable balance of pacing toward the latter part of the film. The writers probably ran out of ideas. Lincoln, in the earlier parts of the film, was a character bent on vengeance, because of his mother’s death – but then he changes and becomes peculiar. The way they do the ending (Lincoln’s assassination; no need for a spoiler alert here, friends) is just okay, I would have loved to see a vampire assassinate him. That would have added some true gritty material to it all.

The casting is not done well. Benjamin Walker is not a very well-known actor, and all the other actors take the focus away from him. Anthony Mackie’s a big star, but he wouldn’t have been a right choice for Lincoln. I feel as if Dominic Cooper and Ben Walker should have switched roles. That way, the focal point would be the better known actor – Cooper. The focus is simply stolen from Cooper, and the casting director is to blame. The performances are pretty good, but the roles just do not feel right.

All that aside, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter offers a pretty fun, gruesome time. It’s a cool concept that is executed fairly well, but it has a few obstacles that tripped it up along the way. The writing feels lazy at times, but it tries to develop the characters and plot a bit, and for that – it’s admirable. However, when they do try to develop the characters or plot, it is often talky and mildly boring. The performances and the make-up are both fine. It gives us solid entertainment for what it’s supposed to be, anyone who likes gritty vampire flicks will love it – but history buffs, don’t be fooled by just Abraham Lincoln – there’s VAMPIRE HUNTER right in the title.

60/100