Film Review: “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”

Photo Courtesy of AceShowBiz
Photo Courtesy of AceShowBiz

The new adaption of “Pride and Prejudice” is a bizarre combination of Austen’s classic and contemporary zombie fantasy.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
Directed by: Burr Steers
Starring: Lily James, Sam Riley, Lena Headey
Release Date: Feb. 5, 2016
Rated: PG-13

While Jane Austen’s classic novel “Pride and Prejudice” has been brought to the screen numerous times since the early 20th century, this new adaption is bolder than ever. Based on the homonymous novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” introduces popular cannibalism to the all-time-favorite Austen novel, which takes place in a traditional, elegant and social status-oriented world.

The backgrounds and personalities of the characters in the film are strictly based on the original Austen novel, yet they have hidden identities — zombie killers, which make the story more intense and violent. In this new cinematic adaption of “Pride and Prejudice,” Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) is a martial arts expert who has been trained in the Shaolin Temple in China. Lady Catherine De Bourgh (Lena Headey) transforms into the greatest warrior in the country. The affections between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley) grow deeper every time they save each other against the rising numbers of the undead. The warriors can all speak either Chinese or Japanese because East Asia was the place chosen for their physical training, which might serve as an approach to breaking into the film market there.

The movie tries to integrate every genre that it can — thriller, romance, comedy — but results in nothing refreshing. It turns out to be a bizarre and deliberate combination of 1800s Austen classic and contemporary zombie fantasy. Many of the original conversations from Austen’s book are used in the movie, but there are lines written in language that might be considered vulgar in the 19th-century England, apparently designed for contemporary audience. It is hard to imagine the characters as gentlemen and ladies living in a highly hierarchical society; they are more like modern-day comedians dressed in old-fashioned costumes, which makes the film inconsistent in the style of language. Though the film succeeds in triggering laughter, it has weaknesses that keep the audience from giving it a satisfying rating: The script is amusing but fails to sound natural, and the talented cast is directed to act in a way that is too exaggerated, as if they were recording a TV comedy show. This makes it difficult to satisfy “Pride and Prejudice” fanatics who expect to see exquisite adaptations that have deeper reflections while being humorous. Horror and violence keep going throughout the film, and even when Mr. Darcy proposes for the first time, the couple ends up fighting fiercely with each other. It might be better to take a break from time to time. As the film tries to incorporate Austen’s extensive, dramatic romance into a new zombie-fighting tale, everything seems to happen too rapidly. The incorporation is a weak and boring one — it hardly makes you wonder what happens next.

If you are in a mood for entertainment on a Friday night, the film will bring you enough laughs to destress, but if you yearn for a reproduction of your favorite Austen novel or an innovative zombie-action film, it will probably lead to disappointment. Janeites beware.

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