May 1, 2020
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)
Need a little something extra to spice up Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice? Or perhaps you’d love to see some of the characters eaten by zombies after a bad experience in English Lit 101? Either way, you might get a kick out Burr Steer’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016), based on Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel of the same name.
The film takes place in the early 19th Century, just as a plague breaks out that that turns England’s dead into the undead. The zombies quickly turn London into a warzone, leaving many citizens cut off from the rest of society. This forces many British to seek training in Japan and China in order to fight the deadly nuisance.
The story quickly introduces the Bennet family, which is dominated by unwed daughters. Their father, Mr. Bennet (Charles Dance), works hard to train them in the art of martial arts and weaponry in order to keep them safe from the perils that surround them. Their mother, Mrs. Bennet (Sally Phillips), believes this training will keep the girls from attracting a husband, as being well-equipped to stand on one’s own feet is considered unladylike. Thus, Mrs. Bennet tries to push her daughters into any situation that could land them a wealthy husband.
Her desperation for husband material is eased slightly when the family is invited to go to a ball at their new neighbor’s manor. Within minutes, Mrs. Bennet pushes her daughters onto the neighbor, who introduces himself as Mr. Bingley (Douglas Booth). Despite his higher stance in society, Bingley quickly sets his eyes on the eldest daughter, Jane (Bella Heathcote). Mrs. Bennet is pleased and tries to work her magic on Bingley’s companion, Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley), in hopes of pawning off her next eldest daughter, Elizabeth (Lily James). The two have a mutual disgust for one another, which only grows with time.
After the ball, Jane is quickly invited back to Bingley’s home, but is nearly killed by zombies on her way. After a period of recovering at Bingley’s manor, she returns home, much to her mother’s dismay. And so Mrs. Bennet moves to seal their relationship by hosting a ball of her own. However, it’s taken over by zombies, and Mr. Bingley is almost killed in the action. Bingley swiftly moves out of his home thanks to Mr. Darcy’s advice, thus leaving Jane heartbroken.
At the ball, Elizabeth meets Mr. Wickham (Jack Huston), who strikes her fancy. As their friendship grows, Wickham works to strengthen Elizabeth’s hate for Darcy by telling her Darcy robbed him of a fortune in their youth. He also takes her to a small village which is filled with zombies who feed on pig brains, rather than human brains, which keeps them under control. Wickham explains that peaceful coexistence with the zombies could be England’s future, if only the country would accept the undead. Jane tries to be accepting of Wickham and his views, but when he asks her to elope with him, she backs off.
Not long after, Darcy realizes his feelings for Elizabeth and writes her a letter of apology explaining his actions in regards to Bingley and Jane, as well as his past with Wickham. Before Elizabeth can decide how she feels about the letter and Darcy, she finds out that Wickham has run away with one of her younger sisters.
Elizabeth and Jane rush to London to find Darcy and Bingley, who are fighting off zombies on the frontline. Elizabeth tells Darcy what happened with her sister in hopes he’ll know where to find Wickham. Darcy immediately jumps into action and races to the zombie village. By using human brains, Darcy comes up with a plan to lure Wickham out. He manages to free Elizabeth’s sister right away and send her back to London. He then moves on to fight off Wickham, who turns out to be a well-preserved zombie. Elizabeth races to help Darcy, and the two eventually make it back to civilization just in time for the soldiers to blow up the bridge connecting the zombie-infested area with London. They’re caught in the explosion, but both survive and later marry in a double wedding with Jane and Bingley.
As far as the Pride and Prejudice aspects go, the film does a pretty good job of following the original storyline. It seemed like all of the major events in the book were laid out quite well, which was nice to see. However, the film kind of failed to be scary or funny. I’m not entirely sure where the zombie aspect was going, because there were times when the film seemed to pause for laughter, even though there weren’t really any jokes worth laughing at. The scare factor was never really there either, as there were no real jump scenes and the zombies weren’t any more frightening than what’s been seen in plenty of other movies. Unless you consider a baby zombie scary, but that’s a whole different ballgame.
The casting was okay in some areas, but in most areas it was pretty bad. This is a bit of a letdown considering many of the actors in the film have put on impressive performances elsewhere. The main characters, for instance, didn’t seem up to par with previous takes on Elizabeth and Darcy seen on the big screen. It felt as if Sam Riley was channeling Colin Firth http://amzn.to/2cjnyyK at times, but he just couldn’t hit the right notes. Instead, he sounded more like a self-righteous know-it-all who must have paid Bingley to be friends with him.
Elizabeth and her sisters didn’t really have personalities, so they sort of blended into one boring character who liked to flash a little leg. Darcy and Elizabeth had zero chemistry as well, so following the plot as the classic love story just seemed dry and pointless. On the other hand, Matt Smith’s variation of Mr. Collins, the awkward cousin hoping to get hitched, was pretty entertaining. Of course, I think he may have been channeling the Eleventh Doctor a bit in his performance.
Throughout the film, it felt as if they were trying to fit too much into the story, which made everything feel rushed and incomplete. In the beginning, they talk about schools in Japan and China, which was vaguely mentioned later in the story, but not enough to justify them even being mentioned. Another example is the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who sort of pop up briefly in the story and are never really explained, nor do they serve any real purpose. Perhaps the time spent on these details could have been used to craft a screenplay that wouldn’t leave audiences feeling as if they were being strung along through the story. Of course, by doing this, they wouldn’t been able to come up with a setup to potentially rake in more money with a crummy sequel.
All in all, this film is watchable, but if you’re looking to get a little bang for your buck, then I’d skip it. There’s not a whole lot of substance here, so you’ll get very few thrills during the long runtime. With so much potential, it’s a surprise this film relies more on sex appeal than content, but that seems to be the way too many movies are made now.