Review: In PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES, The P&P Is Fine, But The Z Is ZZZ
Neither as bad as it might have been nor as good as it needs to be, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies lands in that yawning chasm between promising premises and satisfying screen experiences.
The movie smacks of shrewd marketing calculations, namely, how to appeal to the same fans who made Seth Grahame-Smith's 2009 adaptation of Jane Austen's classic a surprise best seller? The answer is to focus on fashioning a more swashbuckling version of the Bennet sisters.
Not only is that more appealing to modern sensibilities, it's justified within its 19th century setting because of a widespread zombie uprising in England that has changed expectations for how proper young ladies should conduct themselves. Thus, family patriarch Mr. Bennet (Charles Dance) has ensured that his five daughters are well trained in zombie-fighting techniques, ready to pull knives from their garter belts and kill any zombies who dare to make themselves known in their presence.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Bennet (Sally Phillips) makes every effort to marry her proper young daughters off to suitable (i.e. as wealthy as possible) suitors. When Parson Collins (Matt Smith, hamming it up in the most delightful manner possible) buys a neighboring estate, oldest daughter Elizabeth (Lily James) is resistant to the idea of marrying him.
Instead, she has her eye on handsome military man George Wickham (Jack Huston), even as the imperious Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley) lurks nearby, killing zombies and ruffling feathers in equal measure. In time, all the silly romantic shenanigans must take second place to the looming threat of a new zombie uprising.
Burr Steers, who wrote the screenplay and directed, is entirely comfortable with the initial Pride and Prejudice part of the equation. An actor by trade, he elicits charming performances from the leading players, though it's nothing we haven't seen before; working from quite familiar material, it feels like a capable remake with few to no surprises or any new revelations or insights.
When it comes to the ...and Zombies portion of the proceedings, however, Steers stumbles badly as a director. Granted, the movie is targeted at Jane Austen fans, and explicit violence or bloodshed is not needed, but the fight scenes entirely lack any grace or elegance, which one would reasonably expect when the participants are often well-trained young women dressed in swirling dresses. Instead, the action sequences, whether they involve martial arts or sharp-edged weapons, are cut into tiny bits of indecipherable figures moving at random, inevitably concluding with the off-screen amputation of body parts.
That style of filming action scenes is now officially out of style in the post-The Raid / Mad Max: Fury Road era, and the sooner that everyone reads the memo and acts on it, the better.
The deficiency of the zombie action scenes might be overlooked, if not for the fact that the movie, for some reason, devotes a considerable portion of its third act to battles that feel inconsequential and gradually wear down any goodwill built up in the first and second acts, becoming tiresome to endure. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is, finally, everything one might have expected from its title, a triumph of marketing strategy over all.
The film opens in theaters in Brazil and Italy on Thursday, February 4, and in North America, Bulgaria and the Philippines on Friday, February 5, before rolling out across the world in the following weeks
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
- Burr Steers
- Burr Steers (screenplay)
- Jane Austen (Quirk Books novel)
- Seth Grahame-Smith (Quirk Books novel)
- Lily James
- Sam Riley
- Bella Heathcote
- Ellie Bamber