Posted under: Reviews
Jane Austen's classic 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice has garnered a lot of success over the decades. In 2009, author Seth Grahame-Smith released the novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a mash-up novel combining Austen's classic with the undead. After being stuck in development hell for years, the film adaption has finally arrived too and here's my review of it.
All the iconic characters from Austen's classic novel are present, with the likes of the Bennett family - from Elizabeth (Lily James) to Jane (Bella Heathcote) to Kitty (Suki Waterhouse) - and the rest - George Wickham (Jack Huston), Parson Collins (Matt Smith), Mr. Bingley (Douglas Booth), Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley) and even Lady Catherine de Burgh (Lena Headey). Set in 19th Century England, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy stand out as our two central protagonists here, whose fate's intertwine and get entangled in the various relationship narratives going on. However, zombies live amongst them, hungry for flesh and brains. Alongside her four sisters - having been trained by their father, Mr Bennett (Charles Dance), to defend themselves - and the skilled fighter Darcy, Elizabeth uses her zombie-slaying talents to take to the blood-soaked battlefield and save her country from being infiltrated by the undead.
The original Pride and Prejudice premise was more so a focus on the clash between different social classes and a civilised look at 19th Century England. Seth Grahame-Smith has a knack for taking such simple, classy stories and reinvigorating them for the modern day (he did the same with Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter) and, whilst Pride and Prejudice and Zombies still takes place in the historical era, it certainly has been giving a contemporary re-imagining and the idea of throwing zombies into this mix, with such a story, is ingenious and fun and makes for a very unique and interesting film premise. Of course, it's quite a silly, atypical idea to an extent too but director/writer Burr Steers understands this and his adapted screenplay is very self-aware and tongue-in-cheek, not taking itself too seriously, making the most of such a premise, having a ton of fun with it and making an incredibly fun, enjoyable movie in the process. Is this by any means a great, accomplished piece of cinematic finesse? No. Is it a solid, entertaining film, nonetheless? Yes, definitely.
For starters, the action is great. The action sequences are explosive and epic and all shot very nicely and executed very seamlessly. The zombies look very real and believable and all the chaos that unfolds on screen looks visually great and genuine. One of the first major action scenes, very early one, at one of the first Balls in the film is a highlight. Another thing that Steers does well is orchestrate tension effectively. There tends to be a fairly tense atmosphere during the aforementioned action sequences and this tension lends itself well to some effective jump scares. The film is classed as a horror and, whilst it's by no means a terrifying film, there are a couple of moments that will genuinely make you jump. However, it gets predictable as the film progresses and, whilst there is still a lot of thrills to be offered, the clichéd jump scare routine becomes fairly tedious and worn out by the end of the film - to the extent that there are two scenes involving a Ball that play out very similarly to one another and both scares in these scenes play out very similarly too.
The plot can become fairly convoluted at times too and the narrative can lose itself fairly often as well. As I mentioned, there are couple of scenes very similar to one another (both of them are at a Ball/dance of sorts and both get invaded by zombies) and the film can get repetitive every now and then. The idea of combining zombies with the iconic Pride and Prejudice storyline is ingenious and it's a lot of fun seeing the apocalypse in an 1800's setting but, at times, the two don't mesh very well and it's almost as of you're watching two very different films at times. We have the Pride and Prejudice aspect with all the romance and drama but it's as if Steers remembers this is a Pride and Prejudice and Zombies adaption so tries to cram some zombies in there and it can occasionally feel a bit randon and in-cohesive, with the two sometimes coming into conflict with one another. There's also not too much of a developed storyline with the "zombies" aspect of the film either and it seems as though they try to cram a subplot in there about just over an hour into the runtime or so to flesh out the proceedings - no pun intended; who am I kidding? Pun very much intended.
Aside from that though, this is a well-made film. The cinematography is good and this really looks as though it takes place in the 19th Century. The acting is very solid too and the stellar ensemble all do some really good work here. Lily James makes a very strong and independent female lead, holding her own here. Sam Riley is another standout too, as Mr. Darcy. The actor gives a very subdued performance, adding to the nuance and intrigue of the character. However, it's Matt Smith that steals the show here. I've never been too fond of him as an actor but he really excels as Mr. Collins in this endeavour, bringing a lot of wit and heart to the charismatic and surprisingly very funny character. All the acting is great through and the casting just seems perfect, with everyone really fitting this era and their respective roles superbly. The characters themselves are fine. Aside from Elizabeth, Mr. Darcy and perhaps a couple others, there isn't a lot of character development here so we don't invest as much into the secondary actors as we do for some of our central frontrunners. As a result, some of the drama never quite has the impact it should.
In the end though, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a competent popcorn flick. It's a film that doesn't take itself too seriously and just has fun and that, ultimately, is what makes this picture as good as it is. This is 2 hours of blood-soaked guts and galore and action and romance. If you're a fan of Pride and Prejudice and of Jane Austen, you're going to love this film because it excels in delivering fan service - it's in abundance here. If you're a casual moviegoer, you can still have a good time with this movie. It's no masterpiece and it has its fair share of flaws, the main being that the narrative and premise - or lack, thereof - is fairly convoluted and tedious at points, but it still handles the material well and is a very stylish and classy looking, well-made and well directed film that is engaging enough to keep you interested. It's a fairly enjoyable movie for what it's worth and I certainly had a lot of fun watching it.
Whilst by no means a great, accomplished picture, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is certainly a bloody, fun and enjoyable film, nonetheless.
About the Author
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.