Main cast: Lily James (Elizabeth Bennet), Sam Riley (Colonel Fitzwilliam Darcy), Jack Huston (Mr Wickham), Bella Heathcote (Jane Bennet), Douglas Booth (Mr Bingley), Matt Smith (Mr Collins), Charles Dance (Mr Bennet), and Lena Headey (Lady Catherine de Bourgh)
Director: Burr Steers
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is adapted from Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel of the same name from 2009 – that novel that spawned dozens of hideous and not-as-interesting “classics, just add monsters” novels, a fad that thankfully died off as quickly as it came. Like the title would suggest, this one is basically Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, adapted in such a way that there are zombies, and the main characters are efficient zombie-hunters who kill things while navigating through the social niceties of their time just to get married and all.
Do I even need to give the synopsis? It’s the same thing in its core: Colonel Darcy falls for Elizabeth Bennett when he sees her doing her die-zombie-die thing, but his control freak nature along with the whole “You must talk endlessly about polite stuff while hoping that she gets the hint that you want to jump her” thing those people do back in those days make things a bit convoluted at times. There are other men, some of them charming, some of them inappropriate, but all road leads Lizzie back to Darcy’s big love balloon in the end. In this movie, I have no idea why, since Lily James and Sam Riley have all the chemistry of two wooden ducks floating aimlessly on the water in a bath tub, and I’m convinced that Mr Riley is actually a mannequin animated by strings held by an incompetent puppeteer. That guy is really stiff and awkward here. He wasn’t this bad in his previous movies, such as Maleficent, so I don’t know what happened. Maybe those pants were too tight?
Lily James is decent, but the problem with this movie is that it is a lazy adaptation of the book. It just takes stuff from the book, without working a bit to figure out how to make all that stuff work on screen. The book was a novelty back in 2009. It is now 2016, thus the movie needs to be clever, funny, or at the very least, full of action or skin to distract the audience from its inadequacies. The movie, however, feels like two different films lazily slapped together in a most disjointed manner rather than a coherent movie that moves smoothly from ballrooms to killing sprees. It gets to a point where the more “Jane Austen” moments feel like filler scenes between zombie attacks, or maybe it is the other way around.
Even then, everything feels dated and been there, done that. The zombie killer scenes feel like they are tired old rehashes done many times in other action fantasy movies in the past. Oh, and the zombies here can talk and everything, which should be different and interesting but instead only feel weird because the script isn’t exactly clever or funny. Yes, despite being billed as an action comedy film, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies isn’t funny at all. Sure, you can argue that the original story by Jane Austen is witty and humorous, but it is also in the delivery as much as it is in the lines, and the cast here… well, let’s just say that a substandard routine TV adaptation of the book (they have one every two years or so, it seems) could easily out-act the people here. These people are just saying the lines, making me feel like I’m watching an adaptation filled with actors who are just saying things that they have memorized without fully getting what they are saying. Lena Headey’s performance is easily the best thing about this movie, but she’s not on it long enough to make it interesting.
At any rate, this movie isn’t interesting or innovative enough despite its gimmicky premise to stand out. It may have fared better in 2010 or 2011, but even then, as an action fantasy film with kick-ass female protagonists, it would be outclassed by the likes of Underworld. And as an adaptation of Jane Austen’s books, its first mistake is casting two bland leads with no chemistry, and it’s all downhill from there. The movie just doesn’t know what to do with itself, and it shows.