Friday, March 4, 2016

Movie Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Ooo this looks cool
Those of you who read this blog when Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies first arrived in books stores, spawning a series of 'mash-ups' such as Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters, may recall my delight in the book.  After numerous casting rumours and mishaps the film version finally arrived nearly 7 years (goodness!) later and I was eagerly looking forward to seeing it.  Pride and Prejudice and Zombies the book was clever, witty, and funny.  Pride and Prejudice and Zombies the film was not. 

I suppose what I liked the most about the book was that it took a genteel saga of mistaken first impressions and sprinkled zombies into it.  The plot line remained the same, there was just, let's say, some further hurtles to get in the way of Lizzie bennet and Mr Darcy's love.  Those hurtles happened to be a zombie infestation which forced Regency Britons to be very skilled in martial arts whilst still following the rhetoric of etiquette.  The film, decided this plot line was too familiar and perhaps wasn't enough, and like the horrible, Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters tried to overcompensate by adding new plot lines that failed miserably.  But there's a reason that we still read Austen's books 200 years later: that plot works!  You can jazz it up with some zombies lusting for brains, but don't confuse it with extra plot lines.  Sometimes this came off as downright sloppy: for example, Wickham shows up to the Netherfield Ball just to tell Lizzie he isn't afraid of Darcy, and then he doesn't feature again in that scene, leaving me going 'why? what?'
Hollywood loves anachronistic pantaloons, doesn't it?

Perhaps the greatest offense was in Sam Riley's role as Darcy - admittedly, big boots to fill; even Colin Firth said that when he got the part for the 1995 miniseries his brother questioned his ability to be sexy enough for the role.  Riley tackles the challenge by speaking in a husky Christen Bale Batman voice which was hilarious at first and then sad for the remaining hour and 45 minutes.  There also seemed to be more of a focus on Mr Darcy - excuse me - COLONEL Darcy, as he kept insisting in the film, as a terminator of zombies than the protagonist, the plucky (and rather angry) Lizzie Bennet (Lily James).  My feminist alarm bells really went off though during the confrontation between Lizzie and Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Lena Headley).  Grahame-Smith extended this verbal garden confrontation in the book to an all-out battle royale, with the two gift sword-women fighting each other for honour.  Although the film tells you Lady C is the most formidable foe, you never actually see her in action.  She has a male crony fight Lizzie instead - so disappointing.

The only redeeming quality I felt the film had was Matt Smith as Mr Parson Collins.  He provided some much needed comic relief but alas, it wasn't enough to save this flaming zombie limb of a movie.