One year before the premiere of “The Walking Dead,” the original text of “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen was injected with zombies by author Seth Grahame-Smith to create the mashup novel “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” While the novel largely retains Austen’s classic story with a hint of zombies for modern color, the film adaptation, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” directed by Burr Steers, cuts out too much of Austen’s masterpiece, and it feels too rushed to savor the beloved story.
The movie begins with Colonel Darcy (Sam Riley) hunting zombies at a party. In this version of Austen’s world, London has nearly fallen to the zombie hoard, but at the Bennet family’s estate at Longbourne, Mrs. Bennet (Sally Phillips) is only concerned about marrying her five daughters off to wealthy men. As in Austen’s novel, the neighboring estate of Netherfield has become occupied by a wealthy, young bachelor named Mr. Bingley (Douglas Booth) and his friend Darcy.
The ensuing love story between Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) follows the same pattern as Austen and Grahame-Smith’s novel, but nearly the rest of the movie is tarnished by improper character development. For example, fans of both the original novel and Graham-Smith’s work will recognize Lydia Bennet’s (Ellie Bamber) disappearance with George Wickham (Jack Huston), and Lady Catherine De Bourgh’s (Lena Heady) hatred of Elizabeth. However, the build-up to these incidents feels edited out, and those who have not read either book may be confused.
While there were bound to be more zombies added to the story to hold the PG-13 audience’s attention, much of the film strays far from Grahame-Smith’s novel in favor of more zombie encounters. This is problematic as the entire film is less than two hours long. By cutting too much of the original novel’s character development out from the film, it feels choppy. If more of the Austen text had been brought into the film, it could have easily kept audience’s attention for over two hours and made more logical sense.
Another major issue is that Steers leaves the characters in sticky situations, especially at the end of the film, and then he edits them to safety rather than show the audience how the characters come to conclusions or fight their way through zombie hoards. Given the short run time of the film, there is certainly enough time to have included more action and problem solving.
The saving grace of this film is the acting quality. Every character feels perfectly cast if not for his/her appearance but for personality. Riley may not have looked the part of Darcy to some readers, but he perfectly captured Darcy’s shy personality masked by pride, and he had an air of a seasoned warrior. James captured Elizabeth’s frustration with the Victorian social structure and Darcy’s initial behavior toward her and her family.
Another positive for the film is the costuming for both the Victorian humans and the gory zombie makeup. The Victorian costuming feels authentic until the Bennet sisters must don their battle attire. The decaying zombies in blood-soaked Victorian dresses and suits accentuate the jump-scares in the film.
Due to the choppy, rushed nature of the film, along with plot holes and a lack of trademark Austen character development, this film receives a 2/5. If the actors had been given room to let their rich characters grow onscreen this film would have been a huge success.