‘Downton Abbey’ brings new life to groundbreaking series

(From Left) Elizabeth McGovern, Harry Hadden-Paton, Laura Carmichael, Hugh Bonneville and Michael Fox are among the many actors who star in “Downton Abbey.” 

By Parker Otto

Creating a film continuation of a television show is rare. One example is “Serenity,” which was a film sequel to the beloved series “Firefly.” One worry of those who see these kinds of films is that they will be unable to understand the plot and characters because they haven’t seen the show. However, “Downton Abbey,” based off of the historical drama series of the same name, doesn’t fall into this void of confusion, and creates a narrative that both newcomers and longtime fans will enjoy.

The film sees both the residents and servants of Downton Abbey, played by an ensemble cast including Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery and Maggie Smith, prepare for the arrival of King George V and Queen Mary, played by Simon Jones and Geraldine Jones, in 1927 England. This results in high-stakes drama and many plot points intersecting throughout the film.

Based on the script, the film was written for those who love the show while also considering everyone else who has not seen “Downton Abbey.” From the first frame, the audience is able to get a sense of who these characters are, how they are related to each other and the titular location. While most of these characters are good, some stand out more than others. 

One example is Carson, played by Jim Carter, the former butler of the estate who comes out of retirement to supervise the royal visit. Carson struggles to break tradition in order to stand up to the Crown’s obnoxious and revolting workers and make sure that his staff is respected. Carter’s performance is serious and compelling, with his expressions being key in determining what he is thinking. 

Allen Leech also has a pivotal role as the Irish Tom Branson, who must decide where his loyalties lie: with his home country or with his family. His character is complex and keeps viewers guessing his motivations, leading to a satisfactory payoff. 

Violet Crawley, played by Maggie Smith, is easily the best character in the film with her witty remarks and fiery disposition. She is like all four Golden Girls rolled into one, who became the head of a powerful family; sophisticated and caring but determined to keep her family’s legacy alive.

The film has the advantage of a $20 million budget so that sets and costumes are more ravishing than the television show. Every frame of film is drenched in atmosphere established by the film’s production. The lighting is also magnificent, with natural light being key. It establishes atmosphere and creates a gorgeous style for the film.

The major “make it or break it” aspect of the film is the plot. The film contains many interconnecting plot threads with some being more interesting than others. If one likes a lot of these threads, then the film should be enjoyable. However, if the viewer just can’t get invested, the film might seem dull. 

Overall, “Downton Abbey” is a perfectly satisfying film that will make fans of the show happy and newcomers interested in the television series.