It is a truth universally acknowledged that, that a literature student not in possession of originality must be a fan of Jane Austen. I’m not a typical literature student. I spent most of my university years being shunned by tutors and students for daring to suggest that Austen really isn’t that great. It was almost as bad as the time I told my A Level teacher that I hated Dickens and he spent the rest of the year plotting my demise. After all, having independent thought is supported in higher education even if the majority of people around you think you’re a fool. Regular readers of my rambling thoughts will also be aware that I’m completely over the whole Zombie trend. So it seems unlikely that I’d be the first person waiting in line to see Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Although, if there’s one thing I know about maths its that two negatives make a positive. Surely, this must be the greatest film that I’ll ever see?
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is exactly what it says on the tin. A rewriting of Jane Austen’s novel with added zombies. The narrative follows that of the romantic novel whilst stopping every now and then for the characters to kick some undead arse. Mr Bennett (Charles Dance) has raised his daughters to understand the ins and out of fighting the zombie hoardes that have now infected Great Britain. They have amazing combat skills but are having less luck at finding a husband. Thankfully, their mother (Sally Phillips) is pushing them into good partnerships with the various wealthy young men returning from the fighting outside London.
Anyone vaguely familiar with the novel or the masses of adaptations will have no trouble discerning where the plot is going. Elizabeth Bennett (Lily James), the feisty and independent daughter, is initially drawn to the mysterious Darcy (Sam Riley) but he feels that she is beneath him. However, both turn out to be adept zombie killers and the pair must join forces to save their loved ones and their country from a potential invasion. The problem with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is that it is neither a very good retelling of Pride and Prejudice nor is it a very good zombie film. Yes, it has more literary standing than most mindless tales of the zombie apocalypse but the whole premise lies on the only slightly humorous idea of Pride and Prejudice mixed with zombies. It is a sketch that was somehow drawn out into a novel and was then adapted for the screen.
With such a low certificate rating that the level of gore is basically non-existent. If violence isn’t the dominating feature of a zombie film, then it is usually wit that saves it. However, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies possesses neither the bite of most zombie films nor the biting commentary of Jane Austen’s works. It’s as if, during the planning stages, nobody decided on what this film was going to be. It tries to be funny and serious at the same time. On the one hand, the cast goes all out to try and play their roles in the traditional period drama manner but they also play up the absurdity of their situation. For something trying super hard to be both scary and funny, it is painfully bad at doing either.
Although, that’s not to say that there is nothing to like about this offbeat mashup. There are some fine action pieces in there and the female leads all delight in shaking off their corsets and letting their blades do the talking for them. And for an Austen hater like me, this is perhaps the most fun I’ll have with an adaptation of the novel. It’s a weird film that I both loved and hated in equal measure. I guess I just wanted more from it. If it had played up on the humour or made its zombie hoarde more terrifying then I would have been left rejoicing. As it stands, it was an interesting experience that I’m not super keen to repeat any time soon.