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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – Movie Review

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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy eOne Films

When a movie has a genre mash-up title like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the filmmakers have a couple of options. They can either make it a completely goofy and comical farce or play it completely straight. Director/writer Burr Steers takes the latter approach and that’s partly why this film succeeds, by giving the viewer exactly what it says on the tin. This is directed like most Jane Austen adaptations with respect towards the original source material and with lovingly crafted production values and a cast of seasoned British actors. The zombies are cleverly interwoven into the narrative in a way that works within the confines of the world established on screen.

One can take most still shots from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and it would not look out of place sitting next to a scene from Sense and Sensibility and other Austen film adaptations. Most importantly, the sharp humour that has kept her work being read centuries after their original publication is all on the screen. Elizabeth Bennet is still the same headstrong young woman written so long ago and her growing attraction to Darcy still has all of their sharp-tongued back-and-forth. Except in this case, they are also performing fight moves that would look right at home in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Burr Steers is especially good at handling the tone. When Elizabeth and her many sisters brandish swords and start cutting off zombie body parts, it blends nicely with the scenes that are taken directly from the book.

With her titular role in Cinderella and now playing Elizabeth Bennet with a similar wide-eyed charm, Lily James seems almost tailor made to portray these classic literary figures. She displays the right intelligence in the role and becomes a convincing zombie fighter to boot. Sam Riley’s straight-laced turn as Darcy also works, particularly with the clever way the character is re-written to be an expert zombie hunter. A scene-stealer is Matt Smith as a potential suitor for Elizabeth. He has the only broadly written character in the entire film and he plays the role with gusto and sheer delight. The rest of the ensemble are also perfectly chosen, showing they were clearly cast as if this were a faithful adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and they allow the audience to buy into the new additions to the story.

The third act of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is when the film starts to become more of a standard zombie action picture. It’s certainly an entertaining one, but doesn’t completely gel as well as the rest of the movie. The script becomes more about killing as much of the undead as possible over the character relationships. The colour also becomes darker and taking on a more gothic appearance, particularly as cities start crumbling and burning. Had there been more consistency, the genres would have mashed up better. Part of what makes the first two acts so good is how focused it was in keeping the look of your typical Austen work. Nonetheless, Steers directs these sequences with confidence and delight at what’s happening on screen.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies will probably not be to everyone’s tastes, yet in an interesting reversal, it will probably appeal more to fans of classic literature over those that gobble up Romero flicks. The filmmakers have a clear respect for Jane Austen’s spirited protagonists and the language of her novels and for the large majority of the film, they aim at capturing that more-so than aiming it at traditional zombie movie fans. There’s a charm to this film and frankly, Elizabeth Bennet packing swords a-plenty is quite fitting for a character so praised throughout the years as one of the most strongly written female protagonists.


Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE

The Scene