With its star-studded cast, including Matt Smith of Doctor Who fame, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies should have been at least a somewhat tolerable film.
Its two-star rating on Rotten Tomatoes is, in my opinion, slightly generous. P&P&Z attempts to integrate an 18th-century novel with, well, zombies. Needless to say, it was not successful.
Now, I’m a huge Pride and Prejudice fan. I’ve watched nearly every adaptation of the film, and read the book multiple times. I know the plot. Well. So when I walked into the film, I was unsurprised to hear zombified Pride and Prejudice quotes. An example: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.” If you just winced, you’re not alone.
Its dramatic screenplay could only be matched by the dramatic acting, with the exception of Matt Smith, who played Parson Collins, the Bennets’ dimwitted yet oddly charming cousin. With hilarious observations such as, “Before we know it [the zombies] will be running for parliament,” Mr. Collins was a ray of sunshine in an otherwise dark movie.
Now, until this moment, I have been avoiding reviewing the plot, which frankly was awful. To begin the movie, Mr. Darcy sets flies on some zombies, whose eyes immediately flash red. Apparently these flies can spot the undead? I didn’t even know that was Darcy at first, which lead me to believe I had mistakenly walked into the wrong theater.
Another part which certainly wasn’t in the novel was a full-out brawl between Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Darcy’s aunt) and Elizabeth Bennet. Lady CDB arrives at the Bennets’ residence and begins attacking Elizabeth because she believes Elizabeth is engaged to Mr. Darcy. And then when Elizabeth says they’re not engaged, the Lady congratulates her on her fighting skills and promptly leaves.
I got major Twilight-vibes from one scene. George Wickham introduces Elizabeth to a church — a zombie church — where as communion they eat pigs’ brains. “If they never consume human brains, they never truly become zombies,” he states, reminding viewers of the time Stephenie Meyer introduced “vegetarian” vampires to the literary world — vampires who refused to suck the blood of humans but instead did so with animals.
The scariest thing about the movie was its mischaracterization of Elizabeth. Played by Lily James, the Elizabeth of the movie tended to cry over men and physically fight with her sisters — as practice in case of a zombie outbreak, of course. And when Darcy admitted his true feelings for her, she punched him in the face, kicked him where a man should not be kicked and otherwise just threw a tantrum. Watching her fight in anger was similar to watching a baby punch and hit things because they didn’t get what they wanted.
It’s funny to wonder what Jane Austen herself would have thought about this bastardization of her most famous novel. I’d like to imagine her rolling over in her grave.