Pride And Prejudice And Zombies started off okay. The title tells you everything you need to know and the movie sets the scene with an opening monologue from a posh-sounding Lily James as the post Elizabeth Bennet, telling us “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains” and, of her swashbuckling sisters, how they must “never relinquish a sword for a ring”.
There’s also another monologue, this time over the animated opening credits, from Charles Dance, as the father of the girls, who tells us how everything came about with the zombies. I started trying to follow it, but it all went in one ear and out the other. It would’ve been better just to skip this and end an early death, as it cuts to black, with the title ‘slashing’ across the screen and then moving on with the story.
The casting is all fine, with everyone evoking the period setting. Sam Riley grumbles along as Mr Darcy, with former Doctor Who lead Matt Smith as Parson Collins deriding the capacity of the undead by telling us, “Zombies barely have the acuity for setting traps. It could be worse, they could be running Parliament.” Sadly, just as Smith is making his presence felt in this role, he then disappears for almost the rest of the film (no, that’s not a spoiler about him – he just gets forgotten about by writer/director Burr Steers).
Another aspect that is also dropped along the way is that, at one point, the characters talk about trying to find a way to co-exist with the zombies and a suggestion is made for how this can be achieved… but in the end, it’s all about doing away with them.
As a 15-certificate, while 1995’s Pride And Prejudice led with Colin Firth as Mr Darcy, might the tables with turned with this female-full cast, with them getting their tops off? No. But never mind, as it’s a 15-cert, does that mean we get plenty of gory murders? No. In fact, in the US, this film was a PG-13, which equates to a 12-certificate, and as I watched this, I was struggling to work out what garnered the ’15’. After all, the BBFC don’t want children to copy what’s going on in a film, so like a lot of superhero movies, the 12-cert is fine. And as these are zombies, there’s zero basis in reality. Based on the BBFC website, it appears to be blood spurts and the usual zombie make-up which tipped things over the edge. Let’s just be thankful that Lionsgate didn’t go with the flow that some studios go with, and censor it down a certificate.
Alas, it’s still not nearly gory enough. There is a way to do a zombie film with comedy and this is not it. Edgar Wright’s fantastic Shaun Of The Dead set a very high bar, but in ‘PPZ’, most of the zombie killings were either done far too quickly, or just off-camera a large number of times. Why?? Either do it properly or not at all. By santising it in the edit, you’re killing it for those who want some har zombie action! Overall, there’s far more ‘Pride And Prejudice’ than there is ‘Zombies’ in this. In fact, it’s more ‘Pride And Prejudice And Sword Fights’, with zero coherent plot.
I have to say that I’m not a reader of classic literature and so the works of Jane Austen are not on my bookshelves, so I can only presume that the movie filled in time by borrowing scenes from this story, but while sat there I was thinking far too often, “Oh, come on, get back to the zombies!”
I expected a lot more from Pride And Prejudice And Zombies, given the trailer, below. An early scene was very telling as the five Bennet girls strut forward in slow motion, in a Red Arrows-style formation, coming towards the camera and murdering any zombies that get in their way. That was when all the ‘just off-camera’ murders began, and it falsely gave the impression that we were about to spend the rest of the film watching a quintet of beauties hacking away at the undead, since the rest of the time, anyone other than Elizabeth had little more to do that sit with each other and titter when a man asked them out.
Note that if you do see this, there is an additional mid-credits sequence. The time it takes to show up was just enough for one of the few people in the cinema to leave before it appeared.
Before I saw this movie, I started to wonder if they might make a sequel, based on another Austen novel, but after this, I hope they don’t. In fact, if you ever meet Burr Steers, drive a stake through his heart – just to make sure that a sequel *definitely* never materialises.
Running time: 107 minutes
Released: February 11th 2016
Director: Burr Steers
Producers: Marc Butan, Sean McKittrick, Brian Oliver, Natalie Portman, Annette Savitch, Allison Shearmur and Tyler Thompson
Screenplay: Burr Steers (based on the novel by Jane Austen, and the Quirk Books novel by Seth Grahame-Smith)
Music: Fernando Velázquez
Elizabeth Bennet: Lily James
Mr Darcy: Sam Riley
Jane Bennet: Bella Heathcote
Lydia Bennet: Ellie Bamber
Mary Bennet: Millie Brady
Kitty Bennet: Suki Waterhouse
Mr Bingley: Douglas Booth
Mrs Bennet: Sally Phillips
Mr Bennet: Charles Dance
George Wickham: Jack Huston
Lady Catherine de Bourgh: Lena Headey
Parson Collins: Matt Smith
Caroline Bingley: Emma Greenwell
Louisa: Eva Bell
Charlotte: Aisling Loftus
Mr Hurst: Charlie Anson
Lt Denny: Tom Lorcan
Butler Edwin: Robert Fyfe
Young Soldier: Dan Cohen
Franklin: Nicholas Murchie
Mrs Kenicot: Kate Doherty
Mrs Long: Pippa Haywood
Lady Anne de Bourgh: Bessie Cursons
Georgiana: Morfydd Clark
Mrs Featherstone: Dolly Wells
Cassandra: Hermione Corfield
Mrs Phillips: Pooky Quesnel