But…what the heck did I just watch?
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies promoted itself as a horror movie, as a kick*ss, female empowerment film loosely based on Jane Austen’s classic. What I found instead was a shell of a story, the lines and tension and character development replaced with dramatic, frequent, and pointless zombie battles.
I didn’t not like this movie because I’m a Jane Austen purist. I love her books, but I’m not some fan who would be rap your knuckles for misquoting her, or be aghast at a movie director making alterations from page to screen. I love Clueless, love Joe Wright’s 2005 Pride and Prejudice. I’m not a zombie person either, but I don’t even think that was my main issue.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies just wasn’t right. It was shallow. The actors delivered their lines flatly. They weren’t characters; they were unmemorable people, reading from Jane Austen’s book because they had to. They spit out Austen’s glorious words, quickly, so as to add another zombie attack or battle in the upcoming scenes.
Everything was focused on the zombies, and even that issue wasn’t very realistic or well-developed. There was no story, no characterization, no chemistry. It felt as though they assumed that the audience would know everything already, which you can’t do if you’re directing a movie. You can’t forsake the fundamentals of storytelling for the sake of entertainment. (I mean, Hollywood does this all the time. But they shouldn’t.)
You also can’t just throw a bunch of actors into the shoes of Elizabeth and Darcy and Bingley and Jane. There need to be genuine interactions and tensions between them, especially if you are going to attempt to put this story forward as a love story at all. Darcy and Lizzy didn’t even get to dance at the Netherfield ball! And she never wandered around or awkwardly ran into him at Pemberley? (Wait did Darcy even have a Pemberley in this movie?) These are two of my favorite scenes in the entire story, so I was very disappointed. Their absence made me realize how crucial they are to the development of Darcy and Lizzy’s relationship.
The major problems really were the lack of depth, development, and characterization. However, this movie is perhaps not so horrible if approached much less seriously. Pretend it’s a comedy. (It’s so over the top that this is easily done.)
Matt Smith (cough Sherlock cough), for starters, was HYSTERICAL as Mr. Collins. His irrational little quips were different, but just as uncomfortable, just as ridiculous, just as true to form.
“Before we know it [the zombies] will be running for parliament”
His dance with Elizabeth was perfect and horrid at once—he reminded me of Weselton from Frozen, dancing like a chicken.
Another comedic saving grace was Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister) herself. She was some famous kick*ss zombie hunter, apparently? (Not sure why SHE wasn’t out fighting zombies too, then…) Her eyepatch cracked me up. She snorted and rolled her eyes at everyone and everything and I related to her very strongly each time. I wish that she had actually fought Elizabeth, but I thought that they did that confrontation scene very well. I especially like that she approved of Lizzy afterwards, for fighting, for holding her own and being so brave.
“I do not know which I admire more, your skill as a warrior, or your resolve as a woman.”
There were a couple of other lines, not necessarily comedic, that I particularly liked as well:
Elizabeth: “I shall never relinquish my sword for a ring.”
Charlotte: “For the right man you would.”
Elizabeth: “The right man wouldn’t ask me to.”
There should have been more of this!
“What’s right to be done cannot be done too soon.”
(This, I have just learned, is actually a quote from Jane Austen’s Emma. Cool!)
“If adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village she must seek them abroad.”
(OH MY GOD AND THIS ONE IS FROM NORTHANGER ABBEY??)
Bravo, scriptwriters. Very clever.
There were a few other things that I have to nod at as well. They so smoothly turned war and soldiers into zombie battles and fighters; it oddly fit into Jane Austen’s story, in other words. The actual hand to hand combat was impressive too. I’m sure endless training went into making these duels so sharp, quick, effortless-looking. Some were more obviously rehearsed, but Lily and the guy who plays Darcy in particular did a convincing job of masking this. And, okay, so maybe I did like the proposal scene a little too. It was a nod to the book, but was turned up a few notches into a full out brawl when Elizabeth started swinging at Darcy.
The desire for the Bennet daughters to find husbands definitely took a back burner to trying to survive the half-thought out zombie apocalypse. And as odd and over the top and simultaneously dull as this movie was, it was, for the most part, entertaining. Only, don’t make my mistake. Prepare yourself for comedy, for something truly ridiculous. And then, I daresay, you will find Pride and Prejudice and Zombies fairly tolerable.