PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES

PrintE-mail Written by Ryan Pollard

Oh, my… What would Jane Austen think after seeing this film? After the success of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, it seemed only logical for the other famous Seth-Grahame Smith novel to be adapted in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, with Burr Steers directing and writing the screenplay. Despite being based on a book, the film itself already faces an ambitiously hard task going in balancing Austen with the Zombie apocalypse. This is the kind of material that shouldn’t take itself too seriously and actually be intelligently self-aware of how ridiculous it is, as well as being a great action-adventure-romantic movie hybrid in its own right. When this was released, it was received to the most divisive reaction, as well as being a commercial flop, only earning just over half of what it cost to make ($16.4m out of a $28m budget). To some extent, it isn’t hard to see why, as what we have here is something of a mixed bag.

On the plus side, the film is held strong massively by fantastic performances all round with rising star Lilly James being brilliantly feisty and fiery as Lizzie Bennett, Sam Riley nailing the stoic dourness of Mr. Darcy, Sally Phillips wonderfully stubborn as Mrs Bennett, Charles Dance lending weight and gravitas to the role of Mr Bennett, and Matt Smith stealing the show and chewing the scenery by being hilariously playful, goofy and gormless as Parson Collins (you can tell Smith’s channelling a lot of the Eleventh Doctor in his performance). The zombie effects are fantastically creepy and gory, almost rivalling the high-quality effects levels of The Walking Dead, and the combination of the cinematography and the set/costume design goes hand-in-hand perfectly to create a gorgeous looking movie. Plus, the action choreography and fight sequences were handled solidly well.

However, despite having both the Jane Austen influence and the inclusion of ravenous zombies, this is a film that lacks the verve, the gusto, the panache, and, surprisingly, the bite to knock this film out of the park. It’s like as if Steers had a problem of balancing the horror and the Austen, resulting in a film that isn’t scary or shocking enough to be a horror movie, nor is it offering a fresh and unique spin on the Austen text. Also, this movie seems to grind to a halt on more than one occasion with the pacing feeling incredibly sloppy, and there were weird editing choices throughout that makes the filmmaking seem amateurish at times. Plus, its tone is all over the place, being romantic and dramatic one second, yet parodically humorous the next. If this is meant to be a seamless and fluid hybrid of romance/comedy/drama and horror, it certainly didn’t feel seamless or fluid in its execution, and as a result, it makes Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter seem like a better movie in retrospect, despite that movie not being critically well-received.

Overall, this is a film that, despite its ensemble of brilliant performances, occasional charming humour, and fantastic visuals, fails to deliver on its core concept and is somewhat disappointing as a result (though nowhere near as bitterly disappointing as Batman v Superman). It’s less fun and adventurous than Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, yet it’s much superior and infinitely preferable to the lacklustre Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, even if that’s not saying much.

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: BURR STEERS / STARRING: LILY JAMES, SAM RILEY, JACK HOUSTON, BELLA HEATHCOTE, MATT SMITH, LENA HEADEY, CHARLES DANCE / RELEASE DATE: JUNE 27TH

 


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