Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

Zombies have been quite the "thing" for the last decade or so, and back in 2009 they invaded the regency romance milieu via this mashup with Jane Austen's famous novel.  As a fan of Austen's book and its various adaptations, as well as something of an undead junkie, I was naturally pretty keen to check out this big screen version of the tale.

A plague brought back from the colonies has left England beset with the walking dead.  Society continues, however, with its whist parties and balls and other such entertainments.  Its just that now, in addition to dance and needlework, young ladies are expected to learn swordplay, martial arts and the use of musket and pistol.  The five Bennet sisters are now Shaolin masters who just happen to be in the market for husbands, with Fitzwilliam Darcy is now an expert monster hunter in addition to being obscenely wealthy.  Shenanigans, both romantic and zombie-themed, ensue.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first half hour or so of this film, which not-so-coincidentally is the part that sticks closest to Jane Austen's original novel, just with the occasional undead attack thrown in for some spice.  The more it ventures into being its own thing, however, the more I felt it lost its way.  And it should be noted that the film is very much its own thing: while I haven't read the book on which it is nominally based, the synopsis I browsed shows that it hews much more closely to the basic Pride & Prejudice narrative than does this screen version.  This is particularly true in the final act, which is basically entirely original to the film, and for which I did not much care.

It is in its characters that the film delivers its best moments (though I do think Charles Dance was criminally underused as Mr Bennet).  Lily James and Sam Riley are a fine lead couple, and Matt Smith is wonderful as the odious Mr Collins.

However plot-wise the film falls into an uncomfortable mid-point between genres.  I suspect it would have worked better if it had fully committed to being either a romance film that happens to have zombies in it, or a zombie film that happens to have a romance.  Instead we get something where the first half is the former and the second half is the latter and the film-makers never quite seem to sew those two parts together properly.  Which is a shame, because there are some very entertaining segments to the film: it's just not quite as good as the sum of its parts should make it.

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