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Movie Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

The best selling novel comes to unlife in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Image used from collider.com

The best selling novel comes to unlife in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Image used from collider.com

This is certainly a strange yet amazing time we live in. A time when one man’s bizarre idea, of putting zombies into Jane Austen’s classic story Pride and Prejudice and throwing in a whole assortment of over the top ideas for good measure, would not only become a New York Times best seller that would overflow in high schools around the country but eventually would be made into a feature length film. But can this movie capture the sheer madness that made it’s source material so enjoyed or will is it nothing more then another mindless cash grab from a studio?

The story for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is, for the most part, decent. The story follows Lizzie Bennett and her family in early 19th century England. For the past hundred years or so England has been under siege by a plague that brings the dead back to life, so much so that the undead out number the living, but all the while most of England attempts to go about as business as usual. I never read Austen’s novel but I have read the source material for this film and for the most part does a fine job of following the story. Writer/Director Burr Steers doe a fine job of blending the sensibility of Austen’s novel with it’s bizarre horror mashup which leads to many humorous moments throughout the film. With the addition of placing the horror and action scenes throughout at the right times caused the film to be fun, funny and have a brisk pace that made the film seem shorter. However, like most adaptations changes to the story are made so the film can fit the running time or a certain criteria and should the wrong changes be made then the whole film will collapse in on itself. Sadly this is the case for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. During the third act Steers opts to abandon the source material entirely and create new material with a villainous twist that makes no sense and doesn’t work and clearly had the desire to end the film with a climactic battle. The problem with that, though, is that Steers cannot even commit to his climax and aborts it as quickly as possible, only then to give his audience the middle finger by promising an actual battle just before the credits roll. It’s clear that Steers had no idea what he was doing with this film and rather then going along with the source material, which would have kept the film entertaining and funny, Steers chose instead to give the audience what he believes we want but completely loses his nerve at the last second. It reminds me of another Seth Grahame-Smith adaptation Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter which too chose to focus on action rather then the drama of the novel. The difference here is that Lincoln was made by people who knew what they were doing rather then made by people who were too in over their heads.

Characters for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies are not translated too well

Lizzie Bennett and Darcy are our two main characters for the film and both are alright. Their love affair is decent and has a small handful of nice moments and chemistry but had the film not abandoned the source material in the third act their growth together would have been sweeter but as is is just OK. as separate characters, though, they aren’t that engaging. With Lizzie it is great to see an awesome female lead who goes against her society’s view of what a woman should be but at the same time I found her to be watered down as most of her characteristics and development were lost in the translation. Darcy too isn’t as interesting as he was in the book but again this is because he and Lizzie weren’t allowed to develop as they should have.

George Wickham is our obvious antagonist and a rather poor one at that. No longer the conniving snake he was in the novel but rather a typical mustache twirling villain. Everything about him is so plain, so blatantly obvious and to top it all off so confusing. He lacks good motivation as well as intimidation and has no actual charm as a villain.

The remaining cast is reduced to underdeveloped supporting roles. Those who had importance, those who were clearly nods to the arrogance and rudness of the the upper class, those who had any impact on the book at all are thrust into the background. No such character is more irksome to me then Lady Catherine’s role. Initially the sort of antagonist of the book and all around great character, Lady Catherine is reduced to a glorified cameo, forbidden from doing absolutely anything in favor of Steers’ “go with the flow” third act.

Acting for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is pretty good

Lily James does a fine job as Lizzie Bennett. She manages to convey her civility as well as humorously blend it with her more violent and entertaining attributes.

Sam Riley seems out of place as Darcy. Riley plays Darcy as rough voiced and brooding and as such typically comes off as stilted. Thankfully his acting improves when he’s with James as the two have some decent chemistry with one another which makes their scenes together enjoyable.

Jack Huston is forgettable as Wickham. This version of Wickham is so bland and poorly written that Huston hasn’t much to go on and as such plays him as an every day villain with nothing that stands out.

Lena Headey is wasted as Lady Catherine. What little we see of her is very good as Headey manages to be exuberant and overall enjoyable in her role, however Lady Catherine no longer serves a purpose in this film, even the subplot of her daughter marrying Darcy is dropped, so as such Headey has very little screen time and no importance to the film at all.

The true star of this film would have to be Matt Smith as Parson Collins. I’m very happy to say that Smith has a lot to do in his role which is good as I feared he too would have been a glorified cameo. Smith seems to be the only real person actually trying in this film as his performance is bountiful in humor and gusto. Every little thing he did was done perfectly, every movement, action and dialogue had perfect comedic timing and effect so much so he is easily the best thing about this movie and his performance alone was worth the price of admission.

The sets and effects for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies are well done

For such a moderate budget Pride and Prejudice and Zombies manages to create some fine costumes, sets and makeup effects. The costumes look nice and the sets do manage to be convincing as well as having as being grandiose. The makeup for the zombie is well done and manages to get away with a lot of visceral designs despite it’s PG-13 rating. In fact the rating is the last thing I wish to discuss. I’ve found in many reviews that people are most angry with this film for a lack of blood and gore, that it takes away from the film. I for one do love blood and gore in my horror films but violence is not the answer to making a film better. World War Z, for example, edited out it’s violence but on DVD returned it. Did it make a difference? No, it was still a boring film with terrible characters. Blood and gore a good horror film does not make and the only regret I have from this edited down version is that we miss out on some potentially good effects and more good makeup.

Final Thoughts: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a very flawed film. Though the first two acts are fun and humorous the whole thing collapses in on itself in the third act by making unnecessary changes. The characters comes off as watered down and many are forced into the background, many actors and actresses go wasted in fact all in all the film’s biggest saving grave is the excellent and hilarious performance by Matt Smith. I did find entertainment in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies but in the end I can only recommend this as a rental to watch on a lazy afternoon.

Verdict: 2.5/5

About the Author

Good day to you, my name is Jonathan Gonzalez. For years I’ve loved movies and have been reviewing them for years, ever since I first saw Roger Ebert on Ebert and Roeper during my freshman year of high school for the first time. I am a graduate of Mercy College with a Bachelor’s in Journalism and I have Asperger’s Syndrome, something I am truly proud of.

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