PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES
So, does the film live up to the title?
released 11 February 15 | 108 minutes
Director Burr Steers
Cast Lily James, Sam Riley, Matt Smith,
Lena Headey, Charles Dance
“A woman is either highly trained or highly refined,” Lily James’s kick- ass heroine Lizzy Bennet says, defending her dedication to martial arts. “One cannot afford the luxury of both in these times.” On this evidence, a film can either be a costume drama or a horror film. Pride And Prejudice And Zombies can’t deliver both, despite six years of hellish development.
Which isn’t to say it’s an unfaithful adaptation. Back in 2008, Quirk Books editor Jason Rekulak wrote a list of ( his words), “Popular fanboy characters like ninjas, pirates, zombies, and monkeys,” then shoved them into as many public domain books as possible. Pride And Prejudice got ninjas and zombies, the best title of the lot, and an inexplicably rabid fanbase, who’d probably enjoy a family member’s wake if you stuck a zombie into it.
The big- screen version sticks fairly closely to that set text, and has all the problems you’d expect of a Jane Austen story with undead monsters scattered haphazardly throughout. The film appears to have been cast using the same mindset in which the book was created, with popular fan- fave actors – including one Doctor Who ( Matt Smith) and two of Game Of Thrones’ Lannisters ( Charles Dance, Lena Headey) – making all- too- brief appearances which amount to little more than extended cameos.
The plot throws us face- first into a Regency- era England in which zombies aren’t just accepted as a reality, but are fought on a daily basis by anyone within arm’s reach of a sword. Despite this key change, all of Austen’s plot points remain intact, with her high- concept – feisty society girl Elizabeth Bennet refuses suitors, despite the pressures from her family to settle down – barely affected by the presence of brain- chompers.
Considering the book’s regarded as a feminist masterpiece with one of the strongest central female characters in fiction, it’s odd that the film opens on Sam Riley’s love- interest/ zombie- killer Mr Darcy, who’s immediately undressed and inspected for wounds, before being objectified by the elderly man conducting the health check. It’s an early subversion of the male gaze, and combined with our first gawp at the female leads ( cleaning weapons and discussing their Shaolin kung fu training) raises expectations for something genuinely exciting: a fully female- focused action flick.
Sadly, we’re swiftly into the first
It’s hard to know what this film is for
weird tonal shift – and it’s got nothing to do with the clash between corset drama and gore flick. The sisters tool up in a slow- mo sequence full of thigh- flesh fetishisation that looks like a deleted scene from – whisper it – Lesbian Vampire Killers.
The action industry has been steadily moving towards improved female representation, and there’s an early shot here – featuring not one but five bad- ass female leads; it’s so cool it’ll give you goosebumps – that makes you think Zombies could be another trailblazing example.
Sadly, it’s a false dawn: the males have more power than the women, and even a fun scrap between Darcy and Lizzy is reduced to a bodice- ripping boob gag that feels too much like Carry On.
Without that element of girl power, it’s hard to know what this film is for. It’s certainly not ghoul power – the zombies are weirdly toothless, and surprisingly occasional, with the runtime definitely more focused on Pride
And Prejudice than it is zombies. It’s a weird choice. Fans of Austen’s book will be put off by the title, while horror movie geeks will feel their brain- flesh rotting from boredom throughout, thanks to long stretches of dialogue without a single “Grrr, argh” in earshot.
P& P& Z has two saving graces. Lily James is majestic as Lizzy Bennet, while Matt Smith displays the awkward charm and comic timing that made the Eleventh Doctor so special. But with Smith a mere supporting player, and James let down by strange scripting, even they can’t save
Zombies from flatlining.
When first announced, P& P& Z had Natalie Portman lined- up as Lizzy Bennet, and David O Russell down to direct.
Thankfully his neck was strawberryflavoured.
Antiques Roadshow got feisty.