Pride And Prejudice And Zombies

For F*** Magazine

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES

Director : Burr Steers
Cast : Lily James, Sam Riley, Jack Huston, Bella Heathcote, Douglas Booth, Matt Smith, Charles Dance
Genre : Horror/Thriller
Run Time : 107 mins
Opens : 11 February 2016
Rating : NC16 (Violence)

Something is rotten in the state of England – human flesh. It is the 19th Century and a plague has befallen the nation, resulting in zombie hordes. Country gentleman Mr. Bennet (Dance) has ensured that his five daughters are trained in martial arts and weaponry to defend themselves against zombies, while Mrs. Bennet (Sally Phillips) is more concerned that they marry well. When the wealthy and single Mr. Bingley (Booth) purchases a nearby house, Mrs. Bennet sends her daughters to the first ball where Bingley is expected to appear. The girls defend the party from a zombie attack, and attraction sparks between Mr. Bingley and the eldest daughter Jane (Heathcote). Meanwhile, the second eldest daughter Elizabeth (James) clashes with Bingley’s friend, noted zombie slayer Col. Fitzwilliam Darcy (Riley). Meanwhile, local militia leader George Wickham (Huston), who had a falling out with Darcy, takes a shine to Elizabeth. Elizabeth and Darcy must overcome personal pride and societal prejudices to battle the zombie menace and discover their true love for each other.

            Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is based on the 2009 parody novel of the same name by Seth Grahame-Smith, who combined Jane Austen’s 1813 classic Pride and Prejudice with zombie fiction elements. A film adaptation has been in the works since even before the novel’s publication, with Natalie Portman set to star as Elizabeth and David O. Russell directing. Alas, the end result doesn’t have quite that level of pedigree, with 17 Again’s Burr Steers writing the adapted screenplay and directing. Portman remains as a producer. Across the development process, it ended up that Grahame-Smith’s follow-up novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter got a film adaptation first.

            While Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was criticised for being too self-serious, Pride and Prejudice and Zombiesacknowledges its inherent absurdity more readily. It’s not a dour affair and there is a great deal of winking self-awareness to be had, which led to this reviewer laughing more than he anticipated to. However, it’s quickly all too apparent that this is built on just one joke, that zombies are having their heads blown to bits amidst all the Jane Austen refinement. This is how the idea was conceived: an editor at Quirk books literally compared a list of “fanboy characters” like ninjas, pirates, zombies and monkeys with public domain classics like War and Peace, Crime and Punishment and Wuthering Heights. Sounds arbitrary, doesn’t it? This laziness comes through and the novelty factor proves insufficient in sustaining the film.



            We’ve had Charlize Theron with a bionic arm driving a giant oil tanker across a post-apocalyptic wasteland and Emily Blunt in a mech suit fighting aliens, so kickass heroines are in vogue. In this film, the Bennet girls were trained in a Shaolin monastery and are proficient in various forms of combat. In one scene, two of the sisters engage in sparring practice while gushing over Mr. Bingley, speaking the original Austen dialogue. It’s pretty fun.



James makes for an adequate plucky, wilful protagonist and the actress demonstrates her awareness of the type of film she’s in. The Cinderella and Downton Abbeystar is perfectly convincing as an aristocratic 19th Century English woman fighting social norms, albeit a little less convincing as a formidable zombie killer. Riley’s Mr. Darcy is brusque and brooding, clad in a leather duster. Unfortunately, Riley and James share little chemistry and there’s no flow to the progression of their relationship. Matt Smith showcases good comic timing as the bumbling clergyman Mr. Collins, heir to the Bennet estate. In Austen’s original novel, George Wickham turned out to be a liar and conman, if not an out-and-out villain. Things end a little differently here. Huston’s pulchritude has a slight tinge of menace, which makes him suited to the role. Dance is a welcome presence as the kindly yet strict Bennet patriarch, but his Game of Thrones co-star Lena Headey gets all too little screen time as the eyepatch-wearing Lady Catherine de Bourgh.



Many readers have used charts and diagrams to follow the interwoven relationships in Pride and Prejudice. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies trips up when it tries to get through the plot of the story as quickly as possible so it can get to the next zombie attack. The genre mashup isn’t as seamless and confident as it needs to be to fully sell the conceit. Furthermore, the action sequences aren’t particularly memorable. It’s also lacking the raw sex appeal of, uh, Colin Firth.

Summary: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is not the unmitigated train-wreck it could’ve been, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that all the premise should sustain is a mock trailer on Funny or Die.

RATING: 2.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong 

Jupiter Ascending

For F*** Magazine

JUPITER ASCENDING 

Director : Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Cast : Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth, Tuppence Middleton, Sean Bean
Genre : Sci-Fi/Action/Fantasy
Opens : 5 February 2015

It seems that The Wachowskis enjoyed working on the futuristic “An Orison of Sonmi~451” section of Cloud Atlas, because with Jupiter Ascending, Lana and Andy go full-on sci-fi space opera. The title refers not only to the planet but also to the character Jupiter Jones (Kunis). The daughter of an astronomer and a Russian immigrant, Jones lives with her mother’s extended family and works as a maid, scrubbing toilets for rich families. Interplanetary warrior Caine Wise (Tatum) arrives on earth to guide and protect Jupiter, who is in reality the reincarnation of the queen of the universe. The queen’s three children, Balem (Redmayne), Titus (Booth) and Kalique (Middleton) Abrasax, are vying for inheritance of the planet earth, Jupiter’s emergence throwing a spanner in the works. Breaking free of her mundane existence, Jupiter comes face to face with her larger-than-life future among the stars.

            A friend of this reviewer remarked that she thought Jupiter Ascendingwas an adaptation of a young adult novel, and it’s not hard to see why. The Wachowskis follow the “chosen girl” template to the letter, with the Mary Sue trope of an ordinary girl who discovers her extraordinary destiny in full effect. The foremost example of the space opera subgenre in film is the Star Wars saga – unfortunately, Jupiter Ascending has more in common with the prequel trilogy than the original three films. The Star Wars prequels were preoccupied with political nitty-gritties that didn’t exactly make for very thrilling storytelling. There, it was trade negotiations, here, it’s a dynasty-run corporation. A good portion of this film is Mila Kunis about to sign contracts. With the three siblings jostling for control of an intergalactic corporate empire, this is Dallas in outer space.

            While the story isn’t the greatest, the milieu in which it takes place is quite impressive. This is a visual feast and everywhere one looks in Jupiter Ascending, care and effort is evident. From the production design by Hugh Bateup to the costume design by Kym Barrett to the visual effects work supervised by Dan Glass, this does not feel like hastily slapped-together sci-fi schlock. Sure, the visual ideas may not be earth-shatteringly unique, but this is the kind of film in which every little prop feels like a work of art. When there are low budget productions out there painting NERF guns black and hoping the audience doesn’t notice, that is worth something. A scene in which Caine swoops between skyscrapers on anti-gravity boots makes far better use of the Chicago skyline as an action sequence environment than the Transformers movies ever did. One of the locales is a city inside the storm of the planet Jupiter’s red spot. There is the feeling that there is a rich mythology and the potential for an engrossing universe somewhere waiting to be built upon that this particular story doesn’t tap into.


            There is an effort made to have Jupiter Jones be at least a little more than the tabula rasa protagonists of her type often are – Mila Kunis is sufficiently charming in the role and finds the right balance for the character such that she doesn’t come off as wholly annoying. We also get to see her relatives, their squabbles juxtaposed against the grand intergalactic family dispute. Points there, seeing as it would be easier to go the “conveniently an orphan” route. That said, it is still difficult to buy Jupiter as little more than a plot device.

            Caine is also very much a stock character – stoic, tough, not necessarily a romantic guy. We stand by the opinion that Channing Tatum’s true calling is comedy and he’s not the greatest at the straight-up man of action thing, but he does give it a good attempt here. He does look slightly goofy playing a space warrior spliced with wolf DNA and, naturally, he goes shirtless for a portion of the film. Going off Eddie Redmayne’s performance here alone, it’s hard to believe that he is an Oscar nominee. As the supercilious aristocratic villain, Redmayne opts for a hoarse, mumbling line delivery and his outbursts aren’t as hammily entertaining as this reviewer was hoping for. Douglas Booth’s Titus is preening and vain; these just aren’t very original interpretations for characters of this type. Sean Bean is as reliable as he usually is, but as “the mentor”, it’s another stock character without many dimensions to him.

            When Jupiter Ascending was pushed back from its summer 2014 release date, speculation was rife that it was because of a certain Marvel space opera flick that posed heavy competition and there and then, many made up their minds that the film would be a train-wreck. While there are potentially laughable elements, Jupiter Ascending is middle of the road rather than outright terrible and it is very competently made. The abundance of visual splendour does make up somewhat for the “been there done that”-ness of the plot.

Summary: Jupiter Ascending’s generic, sometimes uninteresting plot is rescued by exciting, meticulously-crafted visuals and fun action sequences.
RATING: 3out of 5 Stars
Jedd Jong