Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Yes. That’s a thing. It’s by the same author who has written Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Seth Grahame-Smith. So one of these movies is good. The other one kind of isn’t. Which one? Read on to find out.
Alright, so this is a review of an upcoming movie, but we can’t help look at the quite peculiar oeuvre of Seth Grahame-Smith who is a bit of a weird author. He takes established stories, both fictional or real, and adds an element that doesn’t appear to fit at all. He cast Abraham Lincoln as a vampire hunter and now Elizabeth Bennet faces off against zombies. But it appears that Grahame-Smith has lost the cleverness that he displayed during Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter which is why we’ll have a brief look at that first.
Not the Movie We’re Reviewing Today
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a really smart movie. Okay, it’s about a former President of the United States killing vampires and occasionally veering into historically iffy territory, but still: The way the story was constructed was quite clever.
During the movie, it is revealed that Abraham Lincoln has been trained to use a silver-laced axe as a deadly weapon against the undead. To make that story and the world function, he alters tiny details about Lincoln’s biography and fills in the gaps in the official narrative with vampire hunting. He has Lincoln’s mother – who in reality died from Milk Sickness – die from a vampire attack, for example. The story about Milk Sickness becomes a cover story. So our reality is intact while the pretense of the secret identity is being kept up and it sounds – suspending disbelief – plausible that this would work in the context of history, assuming that the absurd notion of Lincoln being a vampire hunter is something we’re willing to buy.
By far the biggest change the movie – based on a book by Grahame-Smith – is that slavery and it’s abolition wasn’t a big goal of Lincoln’s. In the story, vampires keep human slaves as cattle to feed off of. So kill the vampires and slavery is ended. That’s the only thing I thought was handled somewhat hackneyedly.
The Movie With the Bennets
All that said, I went into this movie expecting a bit of smart history revision, a bit of altered story and filling in the blanks. Instead, Seth Grahame-Smith completely alters all of the everything.
In Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the Bennet sisters from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice live in a world where the dead come back to life to feed off of the brains of the living. This is just part of life, which is why the humans have built fortifications and are all trained in martial arts.
Keeping with one of the themes touched upon in Austen’s novel, depending on which societal class a person belongs to, they are either trained in the Japanese martial arts or the Chinese ones. The Bennets, belonging to high society, have been trained in the lower class martial arts for some reason that is never brought up or touched upon in anything but sneers from the Bennet’s peers. Either way, everyone can fight.
With that, pretty much all the basics of Austen’s book have been altered to fit in with a society of zombiefighting women and men. As such, the story has a number of jarring shifts between tea parties, witty banter, manner and people slinging swords, brandishing other weapons as well as displaying an impressive array or martial arts skills. In short: the movie just doesn’t fit together all that well in and of itself.
That’s not to say that the actors are doing a particularly bad job or that the story of a society fighting off zombies during the Regency Era is a particularly bad one. It’s just that the story of the Bennets and the zombies doesn’t go together. To make a comparison. Pizza is good. Spaghetti are good. But combine the two and put some spaghetti on a pizza and you have something that just doesn’t work. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is spaghetti pizza.
What makes matters even more confusing is the part where Grahame-Smith sets up a sequel from the get-go, adding sentient zombies to the mix. It’s just very confusing.
The movie is well-made, though. The costumes look fantastic, the acting is decent and the cast is quite stellar. Lily James stars as Elizabeth Bennet, Lena Headey plays a one-eyed Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Doctor Who alum Matt Smith adds entertainment as Parson Collins and Charles Dance of Game of Thrones fame is there as the Bennet sister’s father.
It’s just that none of these characters or actors get to shine. Take the example of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. While in the original book, she’s kind of the antithesis to Elizabeth Bennet, she is just another character in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. So the entire conflict of the rebellious and questioning youth of Elizabeth Bennet and the established and strict older Lady de Bourgh goes right out of the window and therefore her appearance becomes little more than a namedrop.
So this leaves us with a movie that doesn’t really add anything to anything. It’s not putting a clever spin on Pride and Prejudice because it just isn’t very clever. As such, none of the good actors get to shine. The wit is gone to the point of where I couldn’t even snicker at the Bennets fighting zombies and the inherent absurdity in the concept anymore.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies hits Swiss cinemas on June 16th.