It’s like the Walking Dead. But with people who clearly bathe.
In the 19th century, a mysterious plague turns the English countryside into a war zone. On one side, there’s the rich and powerful human beings who have their balls, drink their tea, and get on with life as if there’s no issues, whereas on the other, there’s flesh-eating, walking and sometimes, talking, zombies who are always hungry for their next meal. Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) lives on the side of the humans, obviously and is something of a master of martial arts and weaponry, who not only finds herself interested in, but joined with Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley), in fightin against the zombies. While, in all honesty, Elizabeth can’t stand Darcy, she respects his skills as a zombie killer and finds that appreciation soon turning into affection – something that neither party thinks they are quite ready for. But while these two are busy figuring out if they’re going to wipe out all of the zombies together, or not, there’s Mr. Wickham (Jack Huston), who is trying his absolute hardest to figure out a way to live side-by-side with the zombies, and not have there be any issues or harm done to either side. He too wants Elizabeth, but also has something of a troubled history with Darcy and his family that carries into his life today.
Uh oh. Somebody’s now gone and pissed-off Cinderella!
Let’s be honest: A movie adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was never going to work. Even the book itself, doesn’t quite work. Sure, it’s a clever joke – Jane Austen story that just so happens to feature zombies in between all of the kissing and lavish parties – but it’s one that can also grow tired, if you don’t find interesting, or clever ways to keep it worth telling, again and again. That’s the issue with the book, just as it’s the issue with the movie; there’s an idea that the movie wants to have it both ways, but also doesn’t know if it wants to settle on any one side in particular.
For one, it clearly wants to be a Jane Austen adaptation, where the heart, the romance, and the tragedy is felt through every frame of the picture. But, at the same time, it also wants to be a silly, rumpus and sometimes, funny, zombie flick where people all dressed-up in 18th century attire go around, slaying zombies everywhere they look. Both movies on their own can work, but together, they just don’t mesh well and honestly, director Burr Steers has a difficult time of adjusting between the two stories.
Is it necessarily his fault? Not really.
As I said before, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was never going to really work as a movie; it doesn’t really have any clear-cut audience that it would appeal to most, and for those people who it may appeal to, will still probably find themselves wanting more. While there’s plenty of romance, and kissing, and extravagant parties here, there’s not all that much zombie killing and action which, after awhile, can get to be a tad bothersome. After all, it’s a movie with “zombies” in the title, which makes it seem as if it’s going to take that very seriously and do everything it can to deliver on its promise.
But unfortunately, it doesn’t. Instead, it just constantly has a battle with itself as to whether or not it wants to be a period piece, as well as a zombie action-flick. Which isn’t to say that the movie takes itself too seriously; there’s quite a few moments of actual hilarity, but they’re mostly all reliant on Austen’s actual source material and not the added bonus of having zombies involved with the story as well. Sure, you can’t be mad at the movie for wanting to tell its timeless tale, but you can’t also expect the movie to be all about that side and forget about the whole zombie-angle too, right?
I don’t know. Either way, I think I’m losing track of my point.
The point is that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a misguided attempt at a fun, almost goofy movie. It’s neither fun, nor goofy, but instead, just boring. Steers has shown that he has a knack for comedy with flicks like Igby Goes Down and 17 Again, but when it comes to action, he seems ill-prepared and advised. The fact that we don’t get much action to begin with is a problem, but the fact that we hardly get to see any of it when it is actually happening, is also a whole other problem that makes it appear like the action was a second-thought for Steers. Maybe it was, or maybe it wasn’t, but either way, it’s hard to get enthused about a movie that doesn’t do much of anything.
Of course, the cast is here to try and save the day, but unfortunately, they too are kind of left in the cold. Lily James is bright and bubbly as Elizabeth, but after this literally being her fourth or fifth period piece in a role, I think it’s safe to say that maybe it’s time for James to shake things up. Maybe her appearance in Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver will be that change-of-pace she so desperately needs, but either way, yeah, it’s time for a new gig. Same goes for Sam Riley, too, who despite showing a great deal of promise in Control, nearly a decade ago, hasn’t quite shown any bit of charm or personality in the subsequent years. Maybe that’s too much to ask for, but he’s quite dull here and it really makes me wonder if it’s just him, or the terrible script he’s given to work with.
It’s probably the script, but hey, I’ve got to ask these questions, people!
There are others like Charles Dance, Jack Huston, Bella Heathcote, Douglas Booth, and Lena Headey who all show up and their stuffy outfits, who all do fine, but it’s really Matt Smith who brings some fun and excitement to the proceedings. In fact, had Pride and Prejudice and Zombies been a lot more like his character, it would have been a much clearer, and more exciting movie. But instead, it’s a misguided attempt on cashing in on a trend that, honestly, seemed like it died nearly a decade ago.
Am I wrong?
Consensus: There’s two movies within Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and none of them quite work whether together, or apart, making it a very uneven and dull film, that tries to have it both ways, but ultimately, fails at having it either way.
3 / 10
Jane Austen always did love bad-ass chicks.
Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz