In the first half of this decade, Downton Abbey was not just one of the Great Britain’s most popular television series, but a worldwide phenomena, taking home numerous accolades, including Golden Globe and Emmy wins. The series went off the air in 2015, but four years later, showrunner Julian Fellows and most of the main cast have reunited for the Downton Abbey movie, which arrives in theaters next week.
It’s always a risky prospect re-visiting the world of a beloved TV series, whether it’s for one movie or a full-blown small screen revival? So how is Downton Abbey faring with early critical reception? Based on the reviews that have come out so far, it sounds like it’s a decent follow-up to the show packed with nostalgia, though it ranks closer on the mixed side of the spectrum.
Starting off, CinemaBlend’s own Mike Reyes awarded Downton Abbey 4.5 out of 5 stars in his review, saying that the movie brings back all the charm of the TV series while providing “a few new tricks for fans and newcomers alike to enjoy.”
Overall, Downton Abbey is an exquisite return to the wonderfully familiar, while at the same time featuring a sharper wit and even more gorgeous scenery than ever seen in the canon before.
The Hollywood Reporter’s Leslie Felperin was similarly pleased with Downton Abbey, calling it “satisfyingly sumptuous” and saying that this “satisfyingly dense deep dive into Downton-land is clearly getting the infrastructure ready” to perhaps keep the story going in more movies.
Thanks to an infusion of financing, not unlike the way Cora’s dowry saved the family fortunes way back when, Downton 2.0 is literally bigger, broader, more gem-encrusted, punctuated with more drone shots and monarchist pomp, and has all the major cast members back in place.
Helen O’Hara from Empire had a more mixed reaction to Downton Abbey, giving it 3 out of 5 stars. In her opinion, if you’re already a fan of the series, you’ll enjoy your time with these characters again, but if you’re brand new to this early 20th century look at British aristocracy, there’s not enough to draw you into this “aggressively gentle nostalgia trip.”
Gentle, unchallenging drama for people who already know they like it, this is a nostalgic and rosy depiction of an England that was, surely, never so innocent.
The New York Post’s Johhny Oleksinski was even more critical towards Downton Abbey, stamping it with just 1.5 out of 4 stars and declaring it’s “two thumbs ‘Downton.’”
Julian Fellowes would have been far better off writing another relaxed Christmas special to satisfy fans.
Back in more positive territory, June Thomas from Slate gave Downton Abbey three out of five stars, admitting that while she was “sick of the sight of that famous estate” by the time the series concluded, this movie serves as a delightful offering that manages to “every member of the cast to do what we expect of them.”
The movie has two romances, and neither is particularly well developed. But that’s OK. The thrill of the film lies in seeing everyone again. At least for a couple of hours.
Finally, IndieWire’s Hanh Nguyen gave Downton Abbey a B grade, saying that this big screen continuation “doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to maintaining the look and feel of that lavish fairy tale.”
Much like Camelot or Sleeping Beauty, Downton Abbey exists in its own romantic mythical bubble that’s shaded with enough historical detail to tether it to reality. And now it’s been frozen in the amber of celluloid, with the Crawleys and their friends in their perpetual state of joy and anticipation for a new age to come.
These are just some of the reviews out now for Downton Abbey, so feel free to look around to find out what others thought. The movie revolves around King George V and Queen Mary visiting the eponymous estate in 1927, causing a stir among the Crawley family and the servants. The new faces appearing alongside the old favorites include Geraldine James, Simon Jones, Tuppence Middleton, Stephen Campbell Moore and Kate Phillips.
You can judge Downton Abbey for yourself when it opens wide on December 20. In the meantime, find out what other movies there are to look forward to for the rest of the year in our 2019 release schedule.