Genre: Romance, Zombie Flick?, Mannerpunk
Starring: Lily James, Sam Riley
Director & Screen Play: Burr Steers
Based on the novel of the same name
I remember seeing the book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies at Barnes & Noble when I was barely out of high school and being super appalled. Who would mix a classic with zombies? Then I saw the first preview for the movie adaptation this past fall, and older Tiara could not resist the nosiness to discover the allure of this novel. The fact that I could without having to devote more than 2.5 hours to it was enough for me to kidnap my sister from college and throw money at my local movie theater.
I walked away both disappointed and impressed, though now that I’ve slept on it, the latter is more accurate. I didn’t expect the film to be funny ha-ha, but I was expecting it to be a little funnier than it was. It was actually super serious. I was expecting parody that took itself seriously. I mean for crying out loud, it’s Pride and Prejudice with some zombies. My father hasn’t stopped laughing since I told him what I was taking my sister and I to see. The movie literally starts with,
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.”
To me, that’s hilarious, but the tone of the film was definitively set upon the first zombie killing, which was very in your face and graphic and detailed. As someone who does not watch anything scary ever, I should have emotionally prepared myself, but it definitely took me aback. I think the creative team really wanted to appeal to both zombie movie people and English nerds. The viewing my sister and I attended solely consisted of the English nerd half (though interestingly enough ranging from teens to adult adults).
Anyway, so, plot. Faithful to its title, the majority of the original story is in tact; what changes is that the un-dead has invaded England. For the most part, at the time this film takes place, everyone lives in relative peace, but suddenly there is a slow outbreak occurring, which is problematic because zombies spread like fruit flies. The peerage is trained to fight in a Japanese style whereas the normal folk who care to train are trained in a Chinese style. In spite of all this, Mrs. Bennett still wants her girls to find a rich hubster. God bless her.
What I found quite impressive was that the film managed to fit a lot of Pride and Prejudice in 2.5 hours with the added layers of the zombie plot. Things moved extremely quickly, but I think even someone who doesn’t know the original could follow. Also the things that changed because of the zombie plot usually made sense, such as having different places to train for aristocracy and common folk and the entire Wickham plot (SO WELL DONE). That said, I inevitably missed a lot of little things. A cute training session moment in which Lizzie is ranting about Darcy (typical) is the only time we see the Bennett sisters’ relationship. Literally, Lizzie is nice to Jane, says one thing mean to Lydia (a moment really uncalled for), that training scene, and then it’s just fighting together. I very much missed seeing their lovable, quirky family dynamic. Thankfully they did make it super awesome when the girls did fight together. The Bennett sisters’ zombie slasher strut was so fierce to me (though my sister laughed out loud because she thought it was “too much”).
The cast was wonderful. Darcy took me a little bit to get used to him because he kind of has Batman-voice (I’m not sure if it’s natural or a character choice), but it’s actually kind of perfect because this is a save-the-world-from-zombies Darcy. As for else, they would fit perfectly in a P&P film even without the zombies.
As well integrated as the zombie plot was, it did leave me with many unanswered questions. Why is only England infected? Or is only England infected? How did China and Japan learn how to fight zombies? And if there are no zombies there, why not move? Wait, how are China and Japan even accessible when the world outside of England is cut off?
The costumes were superb. I liked that the characters who did the majority of the fighting wore mannerpunk/”regency punk” (©Drunk Austen) costumes, i.e. all of the slits up the Bennett girls’ skirts for ease of movement or Darcy’s long leather coat tails. The characters who did not fight had traditional regency ensembles, making the mannerpunk subtle but lovely.
There’s potential for a sequel early on in the credits … I know that the sequel book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After exists, but if P&P&Z doesn’t do well in the box office, I wonder if that will affect the sequel actually happening. Leaving a cliffhanger for a movie without a guaranteed sequel is risky because people will be pissed if said sequel doesn’t happen. So while this movie probably isn’t winning any Oscars (except maybe costuming), I hope it does well enough that we get closure. And more mannerpunk costumes.