It’s that time again. Another book based on a movie is coming out. And this time, not only have I not read the book it’s based on, I haven’t read the book that book is based on. My English degree would be shaking its head at me if degrees had heads.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies retells Jane Austen’s classic tale of love and manners, only with the natural inclusion of flesh-eating zombies. Is it mind-blowing genius or the product of a half-eaten brain? Well, let’s take a look at the trailer and find out.
So who stars in this movie? Cinderella‘s Lily James is Elizabeth Bennet. Her love interest Mr. Darcy is played by Sam Riley from Maleficent (there’s a Disney crossover you didn’t see coming), and her sister Jane is played by Bella Heathcote of Dark Shadows. Jack Huston of The Longest Ride plays Mr. Wickham, Doctor Who‘s Matt Smith is Mr. Collins, and Charles Dance of The Imitation Game is Mr. Bennet.
The writer and director is Burr Steers, who has previously directed 17 Again and Charlie St. Cloud. This might be his first big movie to not star Zac Efron. He’s got some experience with the relationship stuff, but the zombie action should be a new challenge for him.
The trailer begins with a few calm, pastoral scenes undercut by a scream that interrupts all these nice people’s dinner. One young lady goes to check it out and finds another girl crying. With good reason, as it turns out, because her face is rotting off. Girl, I’d be crying too. We get some backstory telling us that one of the little-known side effects of the Black Plague is rising from the dead as a nightmarish monster. But hey, at least that undead mother is reunited with her child. It’s the little things that make the zombie apocalypse so wonderful.
We see a city burning and soldiers manning the barricades to keep the zombies back (there’s another crossover: Les Zombies Miserables). Unfortunately, it doesn’t work so well, because only a few people are left alive, and they survive by hunting zombies. Because going after undead chow hounds is such a great survival strategy.
We’re introduced to Elizabeth Bennet, a beautiful young lady who’s been trained her whole life to fight zombies. “The fairest wifely choices be right here in this room,” says Mr. Collins, casting an eye at the Bennet sisters. “My daughters are trained for battle, sir, not the kitchen,” Mr. Bennet informs him. Which is probably a good thing, because you don’t want them fixing you a sandwich after sticking their hands in zombie guts.
“A woman must have a thorough knowledge of singing, dancing, and the art of war,” says Mr. Darcy. Grab your Sun Tzu now, ladies; your dreamboat is here to dictate the path of your education! We get a montage of Liz and her girls suiting up and sticking knives in their garters, because nothing says Regency period like showing all the sexy leg you can.
But don’t get your hopes up, guys, because Liz swears she’ll never trade in her sword for a ring. Probably smart, since you’ll need that sword in case you have to take the ring to Mordor and throw it into Mount Doom. Zombie hands reach up from the ground, Mr. Darcy goes doe eyed, and Jane tells Liz she’d settle down for the right man. Liz slices a zombie’s throat and replies, “The right man wouldn’t ask me to.” Because he knows I’ll chop his head off if he does ask.
Zombies reach through a gate, one shows off his creepy Joker smile, and a girl roundhouse kicks a guy in the face. Considering the original work’s emphasis on manners, I wonder what Jane Austen would think of these people’s behavior. Not that it isn’t awesome, like that exploding bridge. Mr. Darcy pins Liz down, Liz spies on his sword practice from a window at night, and a guy on horseback charges with an impractical-looking weapon. A woman gets thrown off her horse, and a zombie slams Liz into a wall, only to have her slice its head open. Remind me how this film got away with a PG-13 rating?
Mr. Darcy takes a sophisticated sip from a glass, then smashes it on a table and uses the stem to stab one of the walking corpses before cutting its head off and stepping on it. Ever the refined zombie hunter. I’ll give the movie points for showing a zombie killing from the zombie’s perspective. It’s innovative and fresh. It does raise some questions for me, though, like how long does it take for a zombie to lose awareness after he loses his head? How does he feel about this decapitation? Are his undead wife and children waiting for a daddy who will never come home? Did I just give myself zombie feels?
And the trailer ends in a whirl of action as men and women fight and kill zombies and stand over mounds of the dead, while that bridge that blew up two paragraphs ago is still going. Over it all is the tagline, “Everyone Must Fight.” Doggone it, Mr. Darcy, stop telling people what to do with their lives! Not everyone has to be proficient with a rapier, you know.
So based on the trailer, do I recommend this movie? Sort of. I’m not a huge fan of zombie films, but I love seeing unique takes on the undead. The film’s zombie action itself doesn’t excite me, but I’m intrigued by the possible interplay of Regency society and manners with the harsh reality of the walking dead. Honestly, I don’t think I got enough of that from the trailer; it takes a few new twists but on the whole feels a bit monotone. Is the movie any better, focusing on the characters and how they react to each other and the apocalypse? Possibly, but without that focus in the trailer, it’s hard for me to give it a pass. Ultimately, if you like zombie flicks, you’ll probably enjoy this one. If you’re in it for the Austen, maybe not as much, but it’s too early to call on this one. Ultimately, I’ll skip it in theaters, but I might check it out on DVD.
I might even read the books if I can get to them before our own zombie apocalypse.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is owned by Lionsgate.