Last night, my friend and I dressed in Regency gowns and went to a nearly-empty showing of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. That in itself was a fun experience, because we had strangers who wanted to laugh at us, but didn’t want to be rude to two strangers. I would assume that the real critics’ reviews have deterred people from seeing this four day old movie in the theatre, but I actually (generally) enjoyed it.
I should state that I am a highly sensitive person who doesn’t like scary movies because my overactive imagination makes the nighttime shadows look like movie monsters. That being said, I thought the movie was entertaining and worth my future DVD purchase, even though it was a terrible adaptation of Jane Austen.
Things I enjoyed:
- The voiceover of the quotes from the book, and the opening scenes of Darcy hunting down a zombie during a game of whist.
- Matt Smith as Mr. Collins. Oh wow, did I cringe! My favorite part was when he told the family about his complimenting skills, asked to marry Jane, then talked for five minutes about how unattractive Elizabeth was. At the breakfast table. In front of her. That’s obviously how you get the ladies, sir.
- A Mrs. Bennet who wasn’t a complete fool. I know she’s written that way, but after seeing her made so ridiculous in all the adaptations, I was ready to see one who just wanted her daughters wed before their brains were eaten. It seems silly to worry about things like entail and marriage when your neighbors are being killed by the undead, but (in the P&P&Z world) life goes on. Mr. Bennet is even more likely to die at the hands of a zombie, and these daughters are going to end up homeless if they don’t find husbands.
- The class division of Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst, who could afford to study in Japan, versus Elizabeth, who could only afford the less fashionable China. The scene where they talk about her in Japanese was priceless.
- That same scene where Elizabeth told Darcy, in Chinese, that one has never truly read The Art of War until they’ve read it in the original language was even better.
Things I did not like:
- The second half of the film was a random Wickham plotline that wasn’t in the book. I don’t know why it was there, and it was weird. Small deviations are expected in movie adaptations, but we didn’t have big battles in either novel.
- Charlotte Lucas’s minimized role. My favorite scenes in the P&P&Z book had to do with Lizzy’s reaction to visiting her married friend, and that didn’t happen in the same way.
- Random cultural/historical inaccuracies. Look, I know we’re talking zombies, so we can’t really expect this to be a believable story, but social convention can’t go out the window when it’s an old book. Mr. Bingley could not introduce himself to the Bennet women; he needed to have either Mr. Bennet or the (male) Master of Ceremonies introduce him. Lizzy couldn’t go on a random horse ride to a secret location with Wickham without an escort, because that’s how you get raped or killed. I’m pretty sure this little trip would have taken them a couple of days, which is pretty noticeable and scandalous. Lizzy’s not the type of girl to live in sin with a man or elope in Gretna Green, but that’s kind of the social implication of disappearing for a few days with a man outside your family.
- Elizabeth was more sensitive in the movie than in the book. In the book, she’s about to slit Darcy’s throat for insulting her at the ball where they first meet. In the movie, she goes outside to cry. In the book, she is not a woman who needs to be rescued, but one who finds an equal partner in fighting zombies.
- Because the focus of the second half of the movie was on an impending zombie war, the romance was underdeveloped. In the book, Elizabeth gets to visit Pemberley and hear about Darcy’s gentleness from a woman who watched him grow up. They run into each other after he learns humility, and she sees the man worthy of her heart. In the movie, I guess she decides that his fighting skill is sexy, and so is his desire to give her sister his horse so he can fight zombies alone, because I didn’t see any other reason for her to suddenly fall in love with him. Her character didn’t grow at all, and neither did his.
- The famous quotes were in the wrong places. “Half agony, half hope” is a quote from Persuasion, another Austen novel with a letter. “I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun” is indeed a Darcy quote, but one from a flirting scene after Elizabeth has already accepted his hand.
I feel like the script was written by someone who liked the concept of Pride and Prejudice, because it’s the original “boy and girl hate each other until they fall in love” trope, but didn’t really understand the source material. I previously wrote another post about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and I’m sad that this was so unfaithful to the book. The movie tried to be an action/horror film, while its novel was a B-movie comedy, and the original P&P usually either a drama or a romantic comedy. I mean, the P&P&Z book had a character who was a zombie for like five months, and no one noticed that their face was decaying and their speech slurring.
If you legitimately want to see how zombies would affect Pride and Prejudice, I would suggest reading the novel. If you want to watch some entertaining fight scenes, I’d suggest watching the movie. As a Jane Austen fan, I would suggest adjusting your expectations from horror and romance to something more like action with pretty dresses. Don’t expect it to be a recognizable adaptation, because it doesn’t really comment on society and is only funny because Matt Smith is so brilliant as Mr. Collins. It’s a way to spend 1 hour 47 minutes, and I plan to buy it on DVD for the sake of the Mr. Collins and first half of the movie. It’s just not Pride and Prejudice.