So, I’ve read and watched multiple versions of Pride and Prejudice, but–presumably to the horror of Jane Austen enthusiasts everywhere–I have done so in a completely backwards fashion. First, I watched the 2005 film with Keira Knightley, which I liked. Then I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, written by Seth Grahame-Smith (and Jane Austen, sort of), which I also liked. Then I watched BBC’s Pride and Prejudice from 1995, which, to be honest, I was only so-so on. Then I finally read the original Pride and Prejudice, which was quite enjoyable.
And now I have seen the 2015 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
It may surprise you–being the blasphemous wench that I obviously am–but ultimately, I didn’t care for it.
I won’t spoil this particular movie, but there will be SPOILERS for Pride and Prejudice itself, so if you haven’t read the source material or seen any of its adaptations, be warned.
Um. It’s Pride and Prejudice. With zombies. Do your own homework.
1. It’s a Baby Review Day, people, partially because I’m busy writing other things and partially because I just don’t think I have enough to say for one of my usual 3,000-7,500 word epics. Honestly, this is mostly just a weirdly structured list of pros and cons.
2. For instance, pro: the opening title sequence is just awesome.
I love the artwork, which I believe was illustrated by Martin Rowson and edited together by Ben Smith. It’s a completely delightful opening to the film and sets the tone of the movie quite nicely. I actually really enjoyed the first half of the movie (give or take) a lot; it might occasionally be a bit rushed, but that seems understandable, given the nature of the story. There are a number of visual gags and other jokes that I enjoyed, especially the first cutaway to Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and the juxtaposition of the Bennet sisters’ fancy ball attire with their many bladed instruments of zombie doom.
3. I also very much enjoyed a couple of the fight scenes in particular. The one that probably got the most attention (and fittingly, because it’s pretty hilarious) is the proposal scene between Darcy and Elizabeth.
More proposals should go like this, I think. If I ever make a list of Top Ten Best Wedding Proposals in Movies, this will definitely go on it. (Now I’m trying to think what other scenes would go on such a list, either because they’re funny, romantic, or both. Any suggestions?)
Still, my favorite fight scene is probably the one between the Bennet sisters that’s part training, part playing, and all girl talk. There’s this nice casualness about the scene, something that felt quite natural to me. The girls all have this easy sister dynamic, and their conversation just happens to be punctuated with sword thrusts and kicks to the face. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a parody, obviously, and an enjoyable one–at least for that first half of the movie–but this scene was so awesome in and of itself that I felt myself suddenly longing to see more action movies in this time period featuring badass sisters and creatures of the night, and without being Jane Austen adaptations or even necessarily comedies.
I was also happy that all the sisters knew how to fight because, for some reasons, I kind of just assumed it would only be Elizabeth, or maybe Elizabeth and Jane. I didn’t really want that. I was much happier to discover that training in the zombie killing arts was a fashionable thing for a young woman of good breeding to accomplish (especially if she trained in Japan), so every young lady, and not just our heroine, could potentially be useful. It’s a small thing, but it worked well for me.
4. You know what else worked well for me?
Oh my God, Matt Smith. Everyone was right about Matt Smith. He was a hilarious Mr. Collins. God bless you and your scones, man.
The rest of the cast is decent. Lena Headey and Charles Dance are both fun, although they both also feel underused, Headey in particular. Lily James and Sam Riley are both fine as Elizabeth and Darcy respectively, but I also wouldn’t say that I’m particularly drawn to either of them. (Riley seems like a particularly unusual and interesting choice for Darcy, though. He has a very raspy voice that reminds me a bit of Burn Gorman, and strikes me as the kind of guy who doesn’t get to play romantic leads often–although I could be wrong about that. I’m not very familiar with the actor.)
5. Finally, and unfortunately, we now come to those cons. And technically, it’s really only one con, but it’s kind of a big one.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (the movie) veers wildly from the plot of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (the novel), and while I know that’s a weird thing to complain about, considering the circumstances . . . I just don’t like where the story goes. It’s hard to talk about without spoilers–and I generally don’t do those for Baby Reviews–but the movie suddenly switches gears from parody/romance to zombie invasion movie. Which could have worked–after all, I actively enjoy adaptations of the classics that aren’t afraid to switch up their endings–but I thought the execution was off, particularly when it came to Wickham.
Without getting into too many details . . . the antagonist or antagonists of a story can be unequivocal bad guys, evil with a capital ‘E’, or they can be sympathetic, nuanced bad guys, but it’s very, very hard to have both at the same time. Have you ever finished a story where you felt sorry for the bad guys but weren’t really sure if you were supposed to? That’s kind of how I feel here. It’s not nearly as bad as reading The Merchant of Venice or anything, but still. It bugs me.
Of course a little ambiguity can be a good thing, but this felt more confused than considered. And without the structure of the book, the whole last half (or maybe it’s just last 1/3?) of the film sort of feels like its floundering to me and becomes much less enjoyable to watch. I had hoped the ending would somehow manage to pull an undead rabbit out of its hat and tie everything together, but it never did, so, unfortunately, what started out strong fell completely flat by the end.
Parson Collins: “Oh, is there some kind of trouble?”
(The Bennet sisters all take out there swords.)
Parson Collins: “Oh, it appears there is.”
Penny: “I survived! I survived!”
Jane: “Not in the traditional sense of the word.”
Mrs. Bennet: “But Liz is quite available and almost as fair as Jane.”
Parson Collins: “Is there absolutely no negotiating over Jane?”
Mrs. Bennet: “The early bird catches the worm, Mr. Collins.”
Parson Collins: “Oh, indeed.”
Mr. Bennet: “Be mindful of your talent for the delicate compliment, sir.”
Parson Collins: “Oh, no, yep, why yes. She is almost as fair as the other one.”
Lady Catherine: “I do not know which I admire more: your skill as a warrior, or your resolve as a woman.”
Mr. Darcy: “A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing and the modern languages. She must be well trained in the fighting styles of the Kyoto masters and weapons and tactics of modern Europe.”
Meh. I was really enjoying this at first–I was already calling it “delightful” in the review I was half-writing in my head as I watched–but when the story turned, I couldn’t turn with it, and everything just fell apart as a result.
The right man won’t ask you to give up the fight. The right man will love you because you fight.
Also–and this is getting into SPOILER TERRITORY here–there’s just no reasoning with the undead, even when they’ve totally proved that they can, in fact, potentially be reasoned with.