Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Movie Review
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Movie Review Metadata
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve never read anything by Jane Austen. Privileged daughters facing marriage or spinsterhood as the most stressful moments of their young lives is a wee bit infuriating. I tried reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, but barely got out of the first chapter before I felt my eyes retreating into my head. The only movie adaptation I’ve ever seen was a Bollywood version, Bride and Prejudice, which still dance to when it cycles through on Netflix. Any of the other eleventy-billion adaptations only solidified my assertions that the English only make movies about Shakespeare, WWII, and Jane Austen.
The first ten minutes of this film initially validated my fears about the adaptation– young, aristocratic women, dressing for balls in finery and updos while strapping on weaponry beneath bodices and long skirts. It was frenetic and pandering.
Then, to my surprise, it got good. Nevermind the shoehorning of zombies into 19th England, the plot as laid out made sense. You still have your class system within a class system (the haves vs the we-have-mores), the lack of agency and the dire prospects women had when their upbringing revolved solely around speaking languages and playing the piano, and the lying back-stabbers trying to take over the world. See, London is a walled city, protected by a wall and a moat from the undead hordes that roam the countryside. There is a sudden influx of the animated corpses, infiltrating high society and that simply won’t do.
In the wide open, yet lightly protected countryside, Elizabeth Bennett (Lily James, Downton Abbey, Secret Diary of a Call Girl) and her sisters reside in relative wealth with their aging father and marriage-minded mother. The sisters are lacking in acceptable social graces, choosing instead to learn the deadly arts and advanced firearm safety. They are very, very good defenders, but being good at killing things doesn’t make for proper wife material and their skills decrease their chances of finding wealthy husbands. Colonel Fitzwilliam Darcy (Sam Riley, Maleficent, Byzantium) and his friend, the ridiculously rich Charles Bingley (Douglas Booth, Jupiter Ascending) are the new men in town. Bingley may buy the Bennett estate, possibly securing a future home for the Bennet women, and Mrs. Darcy is eager to play matchmaker. A match is made and courting begins, but the undead keep getting in the way, and Elizabeth and Col. Darcy cannot stop butting heads. It doesn’t help that he’s an ass, but this is 19th C. England, and that sort of thing can be overcome with a stern talking to and a righteous butt-kicking.
Oh, and there’s George Wickham (Jack Huston, Boardwalk Empire, The Twilight Sage: Eclipse) who has secrets and plans and a jaw that can chisel granite. He’s a delightful wrinkle, though you know something is up – because in movies like this, something is always up with the tasty ones.
Of note: I generally go into these movies blind because I have prejudices of my own, so it was thrilling to see Matt Smith (Doctor Who, Lost River) pop up as Parson Collins, a rather slimy, self-important man of God who sets his sights on Elizabeth. He’s fun to watch and you feel both sorry for his buffoonery and repulsed by his single-mindedness.
Where there is usually long expository dialogue, there is added action to keep the scene moving. It made the audience feel like they were seeing something refined, as movies with English actors will do. If you can catch all of the wryly dropped humor, you feel very smart. When Elizabeth and Darcy have it out in the parlor, she gives him a thorough verbal dressing down while reminded him there is no weaker sex when it comes to fighting. The English sarcasm and biting wit make you feel smart and the action makes you feel decidedly American. I love intercultural experiences,
There also is a Four Horseman plot threaded throughout and it feels like it might become something, but it’s never really explored to my satisfaction. It’s treated as a throwaway and their very existence keeps you interested, but there isn’t enough there for an ah-HA moment, but stick around through the credits anyway.
Ultimately, this is a popcorn movie. No one will be discussing the merits of hard work over sedentary finery, and this isn’t a dissertation on the influence of marriage and social standing over love and family. This is about women dressed in very cool corsets and slicing the faces off of the recently deceased, about handsome men with piercing stares in longcoats, and certainly more heaving bosoms than you can shake a brassier at! Sure there is Elizabeth weighing her heart against multiple suitors as well as love and deception, but there is also action and fighting and swordplay and the corset industry is about to get very busy.
There is something for everyone, so go have a good time.