Saturday, March 26, 2016
Running Time: 104 minutes
Director: Nicholas Hytner
Writer: Alan Bennett
Cast: Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings, Jim Broadbent, Frances de la Tour, Roger Allam, Deborah Findlay, Claire Foy
The Lady in the Van is now showing in Australia and is distributed by Sony Pictures.
The Lady in the Van tells a story that many will feel they already know and for that reason they will expect more than what they are given with the exception of another natural and superb performance by Maggie Smith.
Alan Bennett's semi-autobiographical film's prime focus is Mary Shepherd (portrayed by Smith), an eccentric, frustratingly stubborn elderly woman who lived out of her van in Camden much to the distaste of residents. Alex Jennings portrays a younger version of Bennett himself who allowed Miss Shepherd to park her van in his driveway temporarily. However, temporary turned out to be 15 years. Over this time, the residents came to see Miss Shepherd as part of the neighbourhood rather than an inconvenience, but nobody knew the true story behind the lady in the van.
The character of Miss Shepherd will be rather familiar to the majority of people who view The Lady in the Van. Many towns or cities have their own version of Miss Shepherd- a homeless man or woman who is all but part of the scenery. Even though they are often met with distaste and caution due to their appearance and unhygienic practises as a result of their living conditions, it is almost an affection which residents feel for them as they are a part of their neighbourhood. The more fortunate opt to be good Samaritans towards these characters because of their familiarity and feel as though something is missing if they are not about. Also like Miss Shepherd, it is highly likely that these individuals have an intriguing life story which led them to their present situation and these are memories that they very rarely would like to share with anyone. Yet, it is these secrets which make them more intriguing to town residents.
Maggie Smith's performance as Miss Shepherd is the highlight of the film. She perfectly embodies not only her real life counterpart as Bennett writes her, but the essence of anyone in her position. In all her obvious repulsiveness and abrasiveness, it is obvious she has been damaged by the world and remains hostile towards her neighbours out of hurt and anger. Her character has the uncanny ability to make one feel an uneasiness in the same way the residents of Camden do, but like them are also intrigued by her and eager to find out what her story is. Smith's performance is often comical at times, but also tragic.
However, despite this sense of familiarity towards the main character and Smith's strong performance, The Lady in the Van's screenplay by Adam Bennett feels most self-indulgent and unsatisfying. It is the details of Miss Shepherd and the mystery surrounding her life that drives the story, but the mixing of this with details of Bennett's life slows it down. Bennett released his book of the same name in 1999 and one can assume without reading the book that it would have flowed a great deal more than the film as it is far easier to coincide two peoples lives in print rather than on screen. Bennett is painted in the film as almost a grand overseer of Miss Shepherd and over-glorifies himself (although he admittedly is a fine writer), especially in the bizarre scenes where he is talking to himself. Scenes such as these are meant to be comical, but the quirky humour will be lost on many. The best pieces of dialogue and amusing scenes which are certain to provoke laughs are reserved for Smith's Miss Shepherd and the all too brief appearance by James Corden.
The screenplay also does not do a good job at explaining certain aspects of the story such as how Miss Shepherd has money to travel to the seaside and buy a huge ice-cream sundae and television when she is considered as living in poverty or why she painted all her vehicles bright yellow. Yellow is generally considered a happy, cheerful colour which contradicts who she is. In the book, it reveals that she liked the colour yellow as it is the papal colour. This is not common knowledge that everyone is expected to possess and would have made more sense if it was explained better in the film.
Like the book which it is based on, the film gives an unsentimental look at Miss Shepherd. It is commendable that Nicholas Hytner does not attempt to over-dramatize the story by forcing one to feel overwhelming sympathy for Miss Shepherd or make the relationship between her and Bennett something it was not. While this does make the film feel like a better representation of real life, it misses the boat with making one feel any type of emotion. Occasionally Smith's Miss Shepherd will evoke some emotion, but the film seems sucked dry of raw emotion by actively avoiding sentimentality. Again, avoiding this sentimentality does work as far as painting an accurate picture of the true story, but there is also a need when viewing a film about humans to feel something for them. The worst part of the film is that you do feel awe right at the very end, but it is a great disappointment to find out that this scene is one that is 100% fictional.
The Lady in the Van is somewhat amusing thanks to the consistently impressive Maggie Smith, but is a disappointing effort from Alan Bennett who has seemed to struggle with putting together an autobiographical screenplay.
Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Running Time: 153 minutes
Director: Zack Snyder
Writers: Bob Kane and Bill Fingers (Batman created by), Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (Superman created by), Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer (screenplay)
Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Laurence Fishbourne, Holly Hunter, Diane Lane, Jeremy Irons, Callan Mulvey, Scoot McNairy
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will be released in Australia on March 24 (distributed by Roadshow Films) and March 25 in the United States ( Warner Bros.)
July 20 2013,Comic-Con, San Diego: Warner Bros. made the announcement that two of the greatest superheroes of our time, Batman and Superman will finally meet for the first time on the big screen with Man of Steel director, Zack Snyder at the helm. This announcement was as good as a dream come true for superhero and comic fans alike and much caution and excitement ensued.....as well as a Twitter storm with the news that Ben Affleck would replace Christian Bale as the Dark Knight.
March 2016: As predicted, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is indeed a dream come true for superhero fans...or close to it. With the obvious elements that these devotees come to expect and desire from such a film, Batman v Superman is entertaining and action-packed with superb CGI, production design and sound editing. However, for those who are not amused by the specifics of the superhero genre, Snyder's latest film will be a drawn out piece of silliness that lacks a tight-knit, convincing screenplay.
18 months after Superman's (Henry Cavill) last great battle in Metropolis, he is still being judged for bringing destruction and devastation to the city rather than being hailed a hero, which is what his alter ego, Clark Kent and fellow Daily Planet reporter, Lois Lane (Amy Adams) are still out to prove to the world. One who has witnessed the pain and suffering that Superman unleashed on the city is a man with his own secrets, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck). The rivalry between Batman and Superman is unleashed with neither being prepared for the danger that the eccentric, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is about the unleash into the world.
While Batman v Superman is a vast improvement on 2013's Man of Steel, it is far from a perfect film. Yet, one has to ponder whether a film where these two larger than life characters meet and do battle could even have had a chance at pleasing absolutely everyone? Judging the film for what it is, it does exactly what it sets out to achieve which is to entertain and provide enjoyment, especially to those of the DC fandom. As one has come to expect from a Snyder film, the CGI is incredible and the production design of Metropolis incredibly detailed. The fight sequences are carefully choreographed and highly entertaining. Hans Zimmer's incredible score adds a great deal to the film as it provides a heightened sense of tension, but also celebration of the characters.
However, even loyalists will still be able to identify the film's faults that those indifferent to superhero films will see and dislike Batman v Superman for. The obvious obstacle of any project which involves two or more protagonists is how to keep more than one storyline flowing without overbalancing or falling into the state of too much happening at once. Unfortunately, Batman v Superman commits both of these crimes, but it is obvious that screenwriters Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer were trying hard to avoid this. The beginning and end of the film feel extremely cluttered, especially the finale which drags the film out losing momentum in the process. As with other multi-protagonist films, this clutter leads to the loss of depth, emotion and connection with the characters.
This is how Batman v Superman becomes Batman's film, rather than a film about Batman and Superman equally. Try as they might for the film to find a balance between the two, Bruce Wayne/Batman is far more interesting to watch than Clark Kent/Superman and one cares more for him than they do Superman, yet it should be the other way around. Bruce Wayne is a ghost of who he once was having separated himself from meaningful relationships to avoid further pain, while Clark Kent is very emotionally invested with the women in his life. Therefore one would expect to feel more from Cavill's Clark Kent/Superman than they do. Snyder's direction of Cavill in both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman has certainly left a lot to be desired. Cavill has a greater emotional range as an actor than what we have seen as of late and the film even calls for great emotion in several scenes, but instead we see a lifeless figure who lacks charisma and on-screen chemistry with his fellow actors.
On the other hand, it is the melancholy and dark temperament of Ben Affleck's Batman that steals the show from his red-caped rival. Like all good Batmans before him, Affleck has a grand screen presence as both the Dark Knight and Bruce Wayne. Yet he is far more cynical and darker than those that have come before him and it is a welcomed change as a result of Affleck's strong performance. Fans will also enjoy the return of the Batman gadgets in the cave and also the witty performance of Jeremy Irons as Alfred.
Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor also outshines that who has always been his traditional rival. While one is used to seeing Luthor as an arrogant businessman obsessed with his fortune, the Luthor in Batman v Superman is a much younger and eccentric figure. He does not come across as dangerous in the same way as a traditional villain, but rather dangerous in a way that he is so mentally unstable and quirky that it is terrifying to think what he is actually capable of.
The screenplay provides some wonderful dialogue driven scenes, particularly where Lex Luthor is involved. However, some of the ideas implemented to help move the story along are quite ridiculous and one feels as though Terrio and Goyer were clutching at straws trying to reac the story's desired outcome. The holes that are left and questions that remain unanswered by the end of the film are indeed menacing. However, what the Batman v Superman screenplay does do well is tie the film in with the rest of the DC universe, in particular the Justice League. It introduces the characters which will grace our cinema screens in November 2017 in a way which evokes intrigue and excitement, particularly that of Wonder Woman, played by Gal Gadot. Wonder Woman, as her alter ego Diana Prince, is a woman of mystery to both the characters on screen and those watching. The build up to her transformation is very well done and her eventual transformation perfect.
Despite it's misgivings, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will still entertain and delight fans of the two superheroes. For those who are not lovers of the universe in which superheroes belong to, it's misgivings may be unforgivable.
Sunday, March 13, 2016
Running Time: 104 minutes
Director/ Writer: Ti West
Cast: John Travolta, Karen Gillan, Ethan Hawke, Taissa Farmiga, James Ransone
In A Valley of Violence had it's World Premiere at the 2016 SXSW Film Festival on March 12. Encore screenings will take place on March 13 and 16.
Movie Critical 's guest correspondent, Anna Chu was on hand at the World Premiere of In A Valley of Violence at SXSW and we thank her for taking the time to share her review and thoughts on the film and the special Q&A with the cast and crew.
Right now I feel my opinion of movies sways greatly due to just a few elements, and they're never consistent. Sometimes it's the visual effects, sometimes it's how the dialogue is captured, sometimes it's the actors. Right now what a movie needs to do to capture my attention is to kill it at the opening sequence, and with In A Valley of Violence, I was drawn in from the moment I heard the panting of a dog.
The dog belongs to Paul (Ethan Hawke), a drifter travelling on horseback through the Old West. They come across a priest and his mule, the priest singing praises that his prayers were answered. He is on his way to save the town of Denton, a place full of sin. A place in much need of salvation 'especially the women.', and it is in the town of Denton that the acceleration of violence unfolds.
I have always had a fascination with ghost towns, of places left behind when people just had to up and go. Recently, my boyfriend and I went on a road trip. We were returning back to the Bay Area from Las Vegas, an 8 hour drive normally but we decided to stop 2 hours out of Vegas to Calico, an old mining town with a current population of 9. Today it's a tourist attraction, with a general store, a local saloon, remnants of a bathhouse and a small school hall perched on the edge of town. It used to be an old silver mining town and at the height of its silver production during 1883 and 1885, Calico had over 500 mines and a population of 1,200 people.
When Paul finds himself passing through Denton on the way to Mexico, it is a town on its way to becoming tomorrow's Calico, the dust blowing through the streets and taking up most of the space of the local stores and homes. Of the few people who are left in the town, there is a whole lot of fear and not much else. The Marshal (John Travolta) and his son Gilly (James Ransone) have a controlling grip on this town, and not much is revealed as to why or how this came to be, but the town's reputation of being the 'Valley of Violence' hints at the cause.
Many elements of the film are extremely bloody and with director Ti West's horror film pedigree it doesn't come as much of a surprise. It doesn't overtake the film but adds to the realistic aesthetic. When Paul enters the town for the first time, it looks exactly like an abandoned outpost in the middle of nowhere. The murders, shootouts and barroom brawls you read about were all too real and regular in occurrence. What I appreciated were some of the nods to the horror film genre in this movie, such as the one-by-one knocking off of characters and not knowing when or how the next person would be killed. Also the use of 'scary sounds' as one of the producers described during the start of ambush scene. I felt that Ti's horror resume added a different dynamic to this film that got me jumping out of my seat and my hand over my mouth in big moments of the film that I wasn't expecting.
One of the biggest strengths of the movie are the actors and their well-written characters. If we had McConnaissance, we may just have a resurgence of Travolta and Hawke. Both actors were cast so well, and I'm shocked that we haven't seen Hawke play a cowboy-type character before (if we have, pardon my ignorance). Travolta brings the comedic elements to the film as the reluctant antagonist to Paul. James Ransone's Gilly is the one we love to hate, his bravado verging onto masochism as he gets beaten up every time. He is scariest at the end when he starts to forget about his pride and his pain and focuses more on vengeance. And the women! Oh do I love the bickering between Mary Anne (Taissa Farmiga) and Ellen (Karen Gillan). It's so shrill that my ears were about to ring, but they were so strong I only wished they had more screen time.
However, the one actor we can't forget is the dog in the film. At the Q&A, Hawke joked that he must have appreciated his work in White Fang,but gave full credit to the trainer who happened to be trainer for the dog in The Artist. Hawke commented that the best experience a young actor can get is to work with animal actors because you can't pretend - the dog will think you're acting weird if you're not yourself. Whatever it was, the dynamic between Paul and his dog could not have been better.
So what do you get when you combine a priest, a drifter, his dog, the town marshall, his son who's also his deputy, his cronies, the deputy's fiancé and her sister? A bloody and smart homage to westerns from the red and white on black opening credits right the way down to the surveying of the damage at the end.
Saturday, March 12, 2016
Running Time: 108 minutes
Directors: Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush
Writers: Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jennifer Lee, Josie Trinidad and Jim Reardon (story), Jared Bush and Phil Johnston (story and screenplay), Dan Fogelman (additional story material)
Cast: (voices) Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Nate Torrence, Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake, J.K. Simmons, Octavia Spencer
Zootopia is distributed worldwide by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. Now showing in the United States and to be released in Australia on March 17 2016.
When Disney talks, the world listens. Zootopia is completely and utterly relevant to the world in which it has been released into and so clever, witty and funny that it brings incredible enjoyment while delivering a vital message.
Zootopia is the world where animals have taken on human characteristics while still acknowledging their animalistic qualities. Meet Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin), the determined bunny who has defied all expectations and topped her class at the academy to become Zootopia's first rabbit police officer. She quickly learns that it is not as easy to bring happiness to others and make the world a better place as she thought it would be, and still has to prove herself worthy and not just a gimmick. Opportunity comes her way when she is given the chance to solve the mystery as to why certain animals in Zootopia are returning to their predatory roots and becoming savage causing havoc in their world. Judy teams up with the most unlikely of companions in sly, streetwise fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) and embarks on a dangerously intriguing quest.
Zootopia is far more than just another animated Disney film with talking animals. The world of Zootopia is an example of absolutely superb animation as a result of it's incredible attention to detail which rivals even the most professional town-planning. The production of the film required a whole metropolitan to be imagined with precision for the topic as it is ultimately the entire basis for the screenplay.
Very rarely will an animated film be released that is so complex, yet uncomplicated and enjoyable for both young and old. The screenplay for Zootopia is wonderfully written as it is enthralling and unpredictable in a style not unlike that of a detective mystery, but very much unique in it's mode of storytelling as a result of it's original, creative and likable animal characters. However, while deep and complex in so far as it's themes, Zootopia is absolutely hilarious with a brand of humour that is as unique as the film itself with it's clever humour that is derived from references to animals in everyday speech and popular culture (eg. the elephant in the room). The film is absolutely packed with pop culture references which bring with them many laughs, such as the unmistakable replica of The Godfather wedding, Guns n' Rodents and the bootleg Disney DVD's. Many of these references will go straight over the heads of younger audience members while they will be incredibly amusing to adults.
Disney animation has always had a flair for creating talking animal dominated films in which the animals deal with situations and problems not unlike humans. Zootopia perhaps does this greater than any past Disney film, as it deals with not just human emotions, but also human politics. The film says a great deal about the way in which humans socialize and stereotype in today's society. Zootopia opens with young Judy Hopps explaining how things were at the beginning of time and how animals were divided based on their genetics. Zootopia is a place where all animals live together in harmony and those who were predators are now accepted happily in society. Yet, the memory of the way things once were remain and make it easy for people to rationalize when things go wrong by accepting that that is just the way the predatory animals were created. The different animals in Zootopia are subject to stereotyping, such as the sly fox, dumb bunny, cheating weasel, slow sloth and savage, dangerous predators including tigers, panthers and lions. They are stereotyped in the same way that humans are based on nationality, religion, looks, occupation and so on. These stereotypes are mostly ignored when everything is in balance and the world is in harmony, but when that balance is disturbed that is when a tumultuous past is revisited and stereotypes are applied.
It is out of these memories and stereotypes that fear is born, something that there is a great deal of in this world at the present time. This fear is implanted into society by only a small number of people who understand that fear is the greatest weapon in disrupting harmony and forcing people to acknowledge differences that turn people against each other. Watching the animals fear strangers on the train and erupt into angry riots against one another in Zootopia is disturbingly similar to what is taking place in the world right now. This is what people both young and old need to see in a cinematic experience right now to make them realise what is really happening, as the way society is reacting and why is represented in a simple, yet effective fashion.
The truth hits home hard in Zootopia, but the most wonderful thing is that despite these harsh and dark themes it is still an incredible amount of fun and a truly enjoyable experience. It is it's brilliant sense of humour that reminds one that there is always light in the bad times, and the cast of likable characters that keep the film light on the surface. Again, younger audiences won't understand the full extent of the underlying themes of Zootopia, but will resort to the classic theme of accepting differences which is still a very positive conclusion.
Friday, March 11, 2016
Running Time: 116 minutes
Director/Writer: Richard Linklater
Cast: Blake Jenner, Tyler Hoechlin, Zoey Deutch, Ryan Guzman, Dora Madison, Wyatt Russell, Glen Powell, Jonathan Breck
Everybody Wants Some!! premiered March 11 at the 2016 SXSW Film Festival
in Austin, Texas. Additional SXSW screenings will be held on March 12 and 18.
Everybody Wants Some!! will receive a theatrical release by Paramount Pictures in the USA on April 1 and by Roadshow Films in Australia on June 23.
Movie Critical 's guest correspondent, Anna Chu was on hand at the World Premiere of Everybody Wants Some!! at SXSW and we thank her for taking the time to share her review and thoughts on the film and the special Q&A with the cast and crew.
Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!! is a love letter to the 1980s in Texas. As a kid born in the 1980s I felt I was transported back to a time I didn’t really know intimately, yet it was familiar enough that it made sense to me. As soon as I saw the lead character on screen Jake (Blake Jenner) wearing the same exact tight blue t-shirt my dad wore in a photo from the early 1980s when my parents were dating, I knew Linklater was meticulous at wardrobe!
I was lucky enough to attend a screening during the opening night of the 2016 SXSW Film Festival, and during the Q&A the cast shared that their prep to ‘being in the 1980s’ was through music. Linklater would send them a mix of music to listen to and because of the collaborative nature of the filmmaking process, the cast would often suggest tracks to add to the soundtrack. Richard Linklater AKA ‘Rickapedia’ would know that track wasn’t released until 1981. The soundtrack was excellent from the opener of ‘My Sharona’ to Devo – these were all key elements in successful time travel.
So where exactly did this time machine take us to? The year is 1980, the place is East Texas and the scene is freshman year for Jake, moving into a Frat house for the college baseball team. Jake arrives with a milk crate full of records and a bag that clearly doesn’t fit the wardrobe he actually wears, but let’s not let that detail get in the way. I’m not going to list all the characters’ names and their personalities but suffice it to say, you’re better off if I don’t because getting to know these guys is the most fun part of this movie. I can only imagine that dudes would relate to this movie if they have ever been in a clique. And I realise as I type this that dudes would never call their group a clique, which says more about me. That aside, I wish I had a bromance friendship like that, where pranks are forgiven with no grudges, and competitiveness is all part of the fun. As a girl growing up, it was a lot more political, fights became long feuds and you had to take sides. With these baseball players, it was all about getting laid, and having a good time with your bros.
Having only been to Austin once before, I couldn’t quite relate but someone in the audience did, commenting to the cast and director on stage that the film did a good job of taking us through different genres of music that were a big part of Austin, from disco to country, punk to pop. It felt a little convenient at times that they had a party every night that helped us relive these genres of music in their heyday but I didn’t mind. The singalong of ‘Rapper’s Delight’ by the Sugarhill Gang was worth it.
From a plot perspective, there wasn’t too much of one which is typical of Linklater’s films. However, a basic summary would be: Guy graduates from high school, goes to college on a baseball scholarship, and the weekend before he starts school he has an amazing weekend with his new housemates, partying, drinking, meeting chicks and in particular one he really likes. Which on paper sounds like an average weekend for some, but was made so much fun with each of the different characters. The shit-stirring, the pranks, the camaraderie which one time got them all kicked out of the club because one of your mates got a little too agro at the bartender about having a lime in his screwdriver. There wasn’t too much time to develop each of the characters, but I didn’t really notice it. Each cast member was given just enough time to shine, without overtaking each other. The camerawork had a lot of one-take panning which while typical of Linklater’s style, helped us feel like we were just there in amongst the gang. I really felt like I was one of the dudes, sitting in the Frat house lounge, laughing at a game of knuckle-flicking mercy and hoping this summer would never end.
I couldn’t help but feel that Linklater cherry picked the best parts of the summer of 1980 in this movie. It couldn’t have been great that whole weekend! Yet this film is more like a love letter from an ex-boyfriend who wants to get back together again, only remembering the best parts of your relationship as a promise of what’s to come. That is the great thing about nostalgia, and with that Everybody Wants Some!! does its job. Let’s put some polyester on and take a trip back to the 1980s!
Saturday, March 5, 2016
Running Time: 107 minutes
Director: Burr Steers
Writers: Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith (Quirky Books novel), Burr Steers (screenplay)
Cast: Lily James, Sam Riley, Jack Huston, Bella Heathcote, Douglas Booth, Lena Headey, Matt Smith, Charles Dance, Sally Phillips, Ellie Bamber, Millie Brady, Suki Waterhouse
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is now showing in Australian cinemas and is distributed by Roadshow Films.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a new twist on the beloved Jane Austen novel, but one that would have been better off had it not been linked to the classic and had been a stand alone film.
Elizabeth (Lily James) and Jane (Bella Heathcote) Bennet and their three sisters are growing up in 19th century England where their mother's main goal is to have all her daughters married off to reputable and prosperous men. At the same time, the undead have invaded most of the country and the Bennet sisters are all trained in weaponry and martial arts so to be able to defend themselves and others should an attack occur. When Jane falls for the handsome Mr Bingley (Douglas Booth), Elizabeth is initially taken by his friend, Mr Darcy (Sam Riley). However, attraction soon turns to indignation and she finds comfort in Mr Wickham (Jack Huston). Elizabeth must decide where her affections truly lie while she also does all she can to protect her home and family from the growing threat of the undead.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is problematic to say the least. It is the fact that it is Pride and Prejudice with zombies that makes it feel a little too ridiculous to take it for what it is and truly enjoy. While the book which the film is adapted from works well enough to have a large fan base, the blend of beloved classic and horror has once again proven to be ineffective on screen. 2012's Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter experimented with the same unique concept, but was unsuccessful in presenting a reputable cross of genres. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is satirical by nature, but the intelligence of satire is lost on the screen. Even without reading the book, one can understand that the concept would have worked well on paper and would even be cleverly written with it's blend of a classic novel with a zombie plague twist, but feels a little too weak and goofy on the big screen with it's lack of emotion, suspense and horror.
However, the interesting thing about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is that if it wasn't Pride and Prejudice and Zombies it would have worked considerably better. In other words, if it was a period piece with zombies that was only loosely based on Jane Austen's classic there would not have been a set of predetermined expectations of both overwhelming romanticism and terrifying suspense that is ultimately this film's undoing. Without the expectation of emotion that comes with Pride and Prejudice and only the expectation of zombie horror, it would have been a great deal more enjoyable and successful.
Yet Pride and Prejudice and Zombies does have some redeeming features which prevent it from resembling a failure. Elizabeth Bennet is an exceptionally strong female character who was well ahead of her time when Jane Austen created her in 1813. In this film, she remains the strong-willed young woman that has been admired by many girls over the years for her defiance against the norms of society, but she is also a physically strong action woman in a world plagued by the undead. Lily James' Elizabeth Bennet is the type of female character that is so often craved by today's cinema audiences and the action sequences featuring her and her sisters are quite entertaining and well choreographed. Despite the overall concept of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies not being entirely successful, it is actually refreshing to see a variation on the character of Elizabeth Bennet who has endured the same type of portrayal in every adaptation of the book over the years and James gives an impressive performance with this point of difference.
As a gothic period piece, the film is a rather successful production. The creation of nineteenth century England is very well done with impressive production design and cinematography which enables the film to be quite atmospheric. The costume design by Julian Day is stunning for both the Bennet sisters and Mr Darcy and Mr Wickham. The make-up for the undead is for the most part well done in its vulgarity, but does have it's moments where one can recognise an ill-fitting facial mask. The musical score is also fine for the most part, but also becomes a method of exaggeration which lends a hand in making Pride and Prejudice and Zombies feel more ridiculous than satirical.
One of the reasons "Pride and Prejudice" film adaptations have been so well received by female audiences over the years is for the tempestuous, but romantic relationship between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy. Although Lily James and Sam Riley give fine performances individually, the chemistry between the two is almost non-existent for the majority of the film. This does tend to change towards the end of the film, but the intense friction one expects from the two is rather weak. The same can be said for the chemistry between James and Jack Huston, who plays Mr Wickham. Huston is fine by himself, but there just doesn't feel to be much there between the two. The most exaggerated character in the film is Parson Collins, who is played by Matt Smith. In what does start off as a bit of comedy relief, Collins is an incredibly irritating character and is given way too much dialogue. Another disappointment is that Lena Headey, who plays the world's greatest swordswoman Lady Catherine de Bourgh doesn't have nearly enough screen time.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies comes with the expectations of two distinct genres, but struggles to reach an equilibrium where both are satisfied.