Review: 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies' Has Little Shock Value

Law Jia-Yun ‘19/ Emertainment Monthly Web Section Assistant Editor

Bella Heathcote and Lily James in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Photo Credit: Screen Gems.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains”. After 200 years since its first publication, the Jane Austen classic Pride and Prejudice has never ceased to influence emerging writers. The novel has been endlessly adapted into the modern era and recreated in different forms of media like The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Lost in Austen. The parody novel written by Emerson alum Seth Grahame-Smith has been adapted into the latest Austen installment known as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
The general plotline itself hasn’t changed that much. Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) is still the independent, headstrong woman living in the Regency period determined to walk her own path without a man. Mrs. Bennet (Sally Phillips) is still the pushy mother whose only goal in life is to marry her five daughters off to eligible suitors. George Wickham (Jack Huston) is still the suitor with questionable morals and back story. Elizabeth’s older sister, Jane (Bella Heathcote), still falls in love with Mr. Bingley (Douglas Booth) while Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley) end up together after 90 minutes of loathing each other. As the title suggests, what has changed is the zombies (that and the complete re-write of England’s history). The zombies, although a major part of the setting, don’t quite play as prominent a role as initially assumed. Yes, the zombie apocalypse created the society the characters now live in, yes, the zombies make a regular appearance by attacking the Bennet sisters, and yes, the escalation of the zombie attacks are what ultimately push Elizabeth and Darcy together. That said, the zombies are mostly a very bloody plot device that moves the story in the direction it wants. Unlike a horror movie, PPZ isn’t constantly in your face, causing jump scares; they were just very beautifully made-up extras reminding you about the zombie apocalypse.
Matt Smith and Lily James in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Photo Credit: Screen Gems.
The movie opens with a stylized storybook narration of England’s revised history, the one where a zombie apocalypse has failed to cripple society completely. The zombie attack had forced them to isolate themselves but instead of building a high wall like in World War Z they destroyed all but one bridge leading to central London. Elizabeth and her peers have been sent to either Japan (the rich) or China (the less rich) to learn ancient martial arts in order to defend themselves. It is ridiculous and bizarre that in a world like this, marriage and romance would still be the source of the drama but then again, what Pride and Prejudice adaptation doesn’t feed on romantic troubles? With the exception that they now know Shaolin Kung Fu and aren’t afraid to fight a whole ballroom of zombies, the Bennet sisters don’t change all that much. When we first meet them, they were cleaning their guns and sharpening their blades like it was a regular routine (as it probably was). However, delving into the movie, Mary Bennet (Millie Brady) is still the bookworm of the family and Lydia Bennet (Ellie Bamber) still flirts with any man she meets.
Despite all that has changed and all that hasn’t, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies still stand as a movie on its own. The film deliberately doesn’t point out the absurdity of the situation and the confrontation/fight scene between Darcy and Elizabeth was absolutely enjoyable. The zombie gimmick was not too overwhelming and the portrayal of strong female characters earned the movie some points in the scale. Compared to Grahame-Smith’s novel, there were some parts of the book that could have been exaggerated more, others were barely acknowledged when needed. The movie is definitely on that fine line between loving it and hating it.
Overall Grade: B-
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