The moment this movie was announced, my interest was piqued. I mean, come on, this was destined to be a bad but fun movie. How can it not be? Zombies in the early 1800’s. Yeah, no way this was meant to be taken seriously. But much to my surprise, this was originally a novel. A parody novel, granted (makes sense), but still something that was a book. Apparently, it had a cult following when it was published in 2009.
However, there were elements that had me worried that this would be… a really messy film. Like, not even “enjoyably bad,” just “bad bad.” This movie had been in the works since 2009 when the novel was published. According to Wikipedia, the film originally starred Natalie Portman (making this a staggering second time a movie of hers had been delayed for years), but she eventually stepped down, but stayed on to produce. The film also went through three directors (David O. Russell, Mike White, and Craig Gillespie) before settling on its fourth and final, Burr Steers, whom also wrote the screenplay. Lily James was eventually brought on board in 2013 to play the lead role and the movie finally got underway in 2014, rounding out the cast later that year.
But I still had high hopes for a fun time. How hard could it be a make a dumb, but fun zombie film? Making the time with my brother/best friend to see the latest zombie romp, this my honest opinion of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES.
In 19th century England, the colonies overseas brought a plague that turned everyone infected into zombies. In order to survive, people occasionally traveled abroad to learn as many combat skills as possible and return home to be survivors in the field, and maintain grace in society. Such is the case for Elizabeth Bennet and her four younger sisters. While their mother (Sally Phillips) tries desperately to find her daughters suitable mates, a tiresome chore it has proven to be, their father (Charles Dance) is content with their combative skills to be enough. But everything becomes a bit complicated when a wealthy and well-meaning gentleman named Mr. Bringley (Douglas Booth) falls head-over-heels for Jane Bennet (Bella Heathcoat), and zombies begin to show signs of intelligence.
DISCLAIMER: I HAVE NEVER READ THE BOOK
Yyyyeah, there were some pretty noticeable problems, but there was still some fun to be had.
The major issue is that the story almost takes itself too seriously. The book, as I understand it, is a parody of the Jane Austen’s book. I understand that “satire” can be utilized in different ways other than comedic (just look at the gritty POWER RANGERS short film), but… man, just say the title of this movie. No one in their right minds who is buying their ticket for this is going to expect so much… drama. They, like myself, are expecting borderline exploitation and bad-ass action.
Instead, what I feel like I got was basically another SUCKER PUNCH, but with romance and less action.
There isn’t even a whole lot of zombie slaying in the movie. Or at least, nothing as extravagant as the trailer made out to be. There’s plenty of zombie encounters but no big, over-the-top battles against them, which is what I was hoping for.
The irony is that the acting is fine. The drama, the romance, the politics, it’s all fine. I’m never bored watching these characters interact. Albeit, all that stuff is cliche as hell (seriously, Elizabeth and Darcy hate each other at first, but constantly give attractive stares… everyone knows where that’s going), but if the audience wanted to see THAT stuff, they would watch the actual PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.
Plus, there’s a lot of sub-plots that don’t go anywhere.
For example, there’s a relatively big deal that’s made about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and if you see them, that means the end of the world is near. You see them a couple times, but… nothing happens when they’re seen. Big deal when referenced, but no big deal when seen. Okay, so why should the audience care?
Also, a big sub-plot of the entire story is that maybe not all zombies are monsters and some are self-aware and don’t want to hurt anyone. Again, this goes nowhere despite a respectable amount of time being spent to develop this idea.
I can’t bring myself to call it a straight bad film, but… no, it’s not very good. If the romance, the drama, and the politics were more boring, I’d say it was a bad movie, but because the characters were well-written enough to, AT WORST, tolerate those scenes, it’s not that bad. But a more truthful title would be PRIDE, PREJUDICE, AND A FEW ZOMBIES.
My honest rating: a weak 3/5
PS: Lena Heady in an eye-patch is a cinematic gift to world. I love that woman.