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Movie Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Thursday, February 4, 2016



Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Directed by: Burr Steers
Genre: Comedy, Thriller/Action
Running time: 108 minutes
Released: 2016
Distributed by Lionsgate

In the 19th century, a mysterious plague turns the English countryside into a war zone. No one is safe as the dead come back to life to terrorize the land. Fate leads Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James), a master of martial arts and weaponry, to join forces with Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley), a handsome but arrogant gentleman. Elizabeth can't stand Darcy, but respects his skills as a zombie killer. Casting aside their personal differences, they unite on the blood-soaked battlefield to save their country.

Last Wednesday (January 27th), I had the privilege of seeing an advanced screening of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I wholly confess that I probably wouldn't have gone to see this film if my roommate hadn't invited me to go with her. I am terrified of zombies. Instead of terribly horrifying zombies, however, what I found was highly entertaining comedic relief.

The film opens with Mr. Darcy crashing a party after hearing reports of someone in the vicinity having been bitten by a zombie. Being an avid fan of the BBC  version of Pride and Prejudice, I had Colin Firth's image of Mr. Darcy stuck in my head. Sam Riley gives a very different image of Mr. Darcy—a darker, more brooding, more socially awkward image. I was initially taken aback, but I have to admit that it made his interactions with Elizabeth so much funnier to watch. (Though I still can't picture where this Mr. Darcy first became interested in Elizabeth. His facial expressions don't give anything away. In fact, the whole romance was pretty rushed as if it was crammed in as an afterthought.)

I do like how PPZ incorporates the characters' fighting skills into some of the most memorable scenes in Pride and Prejudice. Of greatest note: Mr. Darcy's failed proposal. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy's fight scene was hilarious. I also like how PPZ diverges from the original book and also PPZ the book. I confess to not having read PPZ, but I did look up the plot details after the film. I think it really helped the film to create a big villain figure. It was especially cathartic for me in that it was someone I hadn't particularly liked in the original Pride and Prejudice.

All that said, the not-so-secret star of the show is Matt Smith as Mr. Collins. I absolutely loathe Mr. Collins (I think most of us do), and Matt Smith did a fantastic job making sure I didn't have any sympathy for Mr. Collins. He's just so inconsiderate and socially awkward in a bad way. That said, every time Matt Smith showed up on the screen, I knew that I was in for some good laughs. Especially when he showed up at the end during the double wedding. I just couldn't take the wedding scene seriously after seeing him up there.

One thing to know before going into this film (and you've probably figured it out by now) is that it does not take it seriously. Which made quite a bit of it cheesy. If you can appreciate such humor, you'll probably enjoy the film. If you're looking for more serious thrills and action, however, you might want to reconsider going. For me, it worked out because I'm not good with films that seriously try to scare the audience.

I do wish that some elements of the film were explored more. In particular, the possibility of zombies actually being decent folk. There's a scene where Elizabeth recognizes a zombie that has something to tell her, but Mr. Darcy kills the zombie before she can say anything meaningful. Then Elizabeth gets introduced to zombies that seem to want to retain their humanity and eat pig brains, but you'll see what happens to these zombies in the end. Though there was so much potential to explore moral complexity in this film, it lets it go to waste in favor of bad humor and cheesy action scenes.

In the end, while this won't be a film that lives on in memory, it was a good time waster. I recommend watching this with your friends, especially ones that know of Pride and Prejudice, and then going out for coffee afterwards to discuss the film.

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