It Is A Truth Universally Acknowledged That Zombies Add Little To Jane Austen's Classic.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
Director: Burr Steers.
Writers: Burr Steers.
Starring: Lily James, Sam Riley, Jack Hutson, Bella Heathcote, Douglas Booth, Matt Smith, Lena Heady.
The zombie trend doesn't seem like it's going away anytime soon. Those undead suckers are everywhere — in our movies, on our TV shows and even in running apps on your phone.
Now, they're even wreaking their havoc on our classic novels.
After years of studio turmoil and runs with various directors, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is finally making the jump from the book to the big screen. Based on the original story by Jane Austen and modernized by author Seth Grahame-Smith, it tells the tale of one of the most beloved heroines in literature, Elizabeth Bennet, as she tries to survive with her family in what just so happens to be a zombie-infested world, all the while dealing with the strife of the mysterious and dashing Mr. Darcy.
It's the classic tale you know, but with a modern, plot-ruining twist.
Lily James takes on the difficult role of Elizabeth Bennet here. In this world, families send their sons and daughters to Japan (if you're upper class) or China (if you're in the middle) to train in the ancient arts of fighting. The Bennet sisters took their training very seriously, and they are fierce. James takes the helm with ferocity, too, bringing a quiet confidence to Elizabeth, which is a fresh interpretation of this famous character. Bella Heathcote plays older sister Jane, who is given more to do in this version of the story than in Austen's original novel.
The film ends up focused on Jane and Elizabeth, with the other three sisters fading to the background. I think they all might only have ten lines between the three of them for the whole film. This is a detriment to the story, for sure: When Lydia becomes an integral part of the plot, audiences are left wondering which sister she was. The red-haired one? The one with the glasses? Tough to say…
On the male side, Sam Riley and Douglas Booth play Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley, respectively. Booth brings new life to the Bingley character, and actually ends up being more charming than Darcy. Riley's Darcy just feels drab and dull. There's no quiet charisma or charming smirk. Darcy has a chip on his shoulder and scoffs around the screen. Worse, there's not much chemistry between him and James, and most of their scenes fall flat despite James trying her best.
What actually keeps the film afloat is the side characters. Lena Heady plays another fiery character, Lady Catharine. Always a fun character to watch in any adaptation of the book, Heady manages to take her to another level still. And yet Matt Smith pretty much steals the film as Mr. Collins, one of the film's true bright spots. Typically a weaselly and smarmy character, Smith escalates Collins' awkwardness to a full on comedic level. Director Burr Steers definitely recognized this comedic relief, inserting Collins into many more scenes than he usually gets.
For the first two-thirds of the movie, the action scenes are fun enough, with Steers playing with some fun POV angles during some zombie beheadings. Then comes the last act, where the film completely falls apart. Its final action sequence is rushed and anti-climactic, and its ending is a paint-by-numbers affair fully devoid of tension.
Sure, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has some entertaining moments and is probably a relatively decent date movie — there's enough of a mix of romance, comedy and violence to satisfy most everyone. That said, this lowest common denominator doesn't really add anything new to the zombie genre, and it just comes off quite lazy in the end.
James and Smith are worth a glance, I'd say, as actors to keep tabs on. But unless you're dying (haha) to see this film, just wait to catch it on Netflix so you can tune out and chill when it starts to lose steam.