Well, at least the title is amusing enough. Burr Steers’ Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is an odd film, to be sure. It takes a lot of nerve to take a classic tale by Jane Austin and twist it into a zombie tale. I can hear the book clubs, now. “He did what….?!” Still, while this is an audacious turn on the book, this film leaves a lot to be desired. It is not awful, but boy was I disappointed.
Steers keeps the story of young ladies trying to find themselves rich suitors to marry in tact, but it does so against the backdrop of a zombie plague that has turned England into an almost militaristic compound. There are two types of zombies. One group that has an insatiable thirst for human brains, flesh and blood. They have lost all mental capacity to still maintain their human qualities. Then there is the other kind of zombies, which have turned but not tasted human flesh, yet so they are still relatively human and sustain themselves on animals. Some think that there can be some kind of truce worked out between the unturned zombies and the humans, but people are understandably dubious.
This film looks good and they have done a good job holding to the Pride and Prejudice element of the story. I would say they even have part of the main romance between Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) and Colonel Fizwilliam Darcy (Sam Riley) interesting enough, but there is not much else that goes on and the film slogs along like one of the undead, themselves. The casting is complimentary to the time period with Charles Dance as Mr. Bennet and the narrator. He brings some class to the proceedings but is under utilized. Elizabeth is one of five sisters and all seem to have no shortage of rich and powerful husbands to be.
All of the girls Jane (Bella Heathcote), Lydia (Ellie Bamber), Mary (Millie Brady), Kitty (Suki Waterhouse) and of course, Elizabeth (Lily James) are well trained for zombie slaying by their father. All of them seem to be sought after by the Lords of England, with the exception of Elizabeth who is more confrontational but also a romantic at heart. She is a tough nut to crack. Strong willed, tough, smart and resilient she is taken by the good Colonel but since they are at odds through most of the picture, what we are given is a lot of staring through windows at night watching each other and pining. A lot of pining.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is too busy weaving all of the characters through this convoluted plot that after a while, I gave up trying to keep everything straight. Mostly, because I did not care much about any of these characters. I stuck with Elizabeth because she is clearly the most interesting character in the film. I was also amused by the very strange character of Parson Collins (Dr. Who himself, Matt Smith). I don’t know whose idea it was for Smith to play Collins as such a goofball, but it gave this film some much needed levity. Lena Headey is largely wasted as Lady Catherine de Bourgh, but she does what she can with the screen time she has.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is too involved and takes itself too seriously. It is not all that interesting or absorbing. The action sequences are okay but nothing we have not seen done before and better. No doubt, the sterile action sequences were aimed at the PG-13 rating this film has. The film is predictable and pretty routine in most of its elements. It is ambitious but has taken on more than it can handle. As I would say to sum this film up, “Too much Pride and Prejudice and not enough Zombies”.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – ** 1/2 out of 5
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – Rated PG-13 for violence, some gore, and sexual situations
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – Run Time 107 minutes
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is now available on DVD and On Demand