Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
The labors of the 19th-century British aristocracy are never done. There are balls to attend, card games to play, gowns to wear. Oh, and of course, zombies to kill.
The zombies spring from the ground like so many gory roses, you see. And while they can certainly add a bit of energy to a dull dinner party, it's never pleasant when the host winds up being the main course.
Such is the England that Elizabeth Bennet and her four comely sisters have been born into. Though technically part of the island's nobility, the Bennets have fallen upon hard times. Their father was never particularly rich, and what wealth he does have must pass on to the oldest male relative. Which means there's a bit of pressure to marry the sisters off into stable, if not extravagantly wealthy homes.
Alas, the kind Mr. Bennet was also far more interested in making sure his daughters were more skilled in the arts of zombie killing than in exercising femininely wiles. "A woman is either highly trained or highly refined," Elizabeth says. "One cannot be both in such times."
Still, Elizabeth and her siblings are quite the lookers, and it's not long before a bevy of suitors come knocking. There's Mr. Bingley, new heir to one of the region's finest houses (and a fine fortune beyond that). There's Parson Collins, the sisters' pompous cousin who will eventually claim the Bennet estate. There's mysterious George Wickham, a military man who has been brought in to deal with the most recent zombie incursions.
And then there's brooding Mister—excuse me—Colonel Darcy, a man whose skill with a blade is beyond reproach, but his manners less so.
All these men have designs on the Bennet women, especially the lethal, headstrong Elizabeth. Many wish to claim her hand.
Hopefully the zombies won't claim it first.
Despite the presence of the walking dead, the manners of the British aristocracy are still impeccable. And it's always nice to hear people take time to show basic courtesy and etiquette even as they hack off the occasional undead head.
But the qualities of these men and women go deeper than just them knowing how to mind their p's and q's. Elizabeth in particular shows a great deal of gumption in saving her sisters—be it from an unhealthy marriage match, a horde of zombies or, occasionally, both. Additionally, she stands on principle in an age when such stances aren't always rewarded.
Col. Darcy is also a man of principle (if, at times, a bit more brusquely spoken than polite society would like). He's a relentless zombie hunter, and he works like crazy to keep his skills up (much to the dismay of his shrubbery). He's always keen to save a life—whether it's in only figurative or quite literal jeopardy.
Wickham takes Elizabeth to a very strange church called St. Lazarus, where the half-undead—still in possession of their minds despite their craving for brains—listen to sermons (delivered by, you might say, a like-minded cleric) and partake of communion, the "blood" and "body" components composed of pig parts. It is thus that they remain at least partly human. (It's only when they give in to temptation and eat human brains for the first time that they truly become zombies.) As Elizabeth says, they are kept human through "religious piety and pigs' brains."
[Spoiler Warning] This would be a twisted yet interesting rumination, perhaps, on the saving power of Jesus—who, after all, has taken Christians all from death into new life—but, alas, real brains are sneaked into the communion banquet, thus turning these faithful few into the fully undead and, thus, in dire need of extermination.
Parson Collins is a pompous pastor with a very high opinion of himself. He volunteers to read several sermons (a tedium from which the Bennet girls find reasons to excuse themselves). He also suggests that the book of Revelation tells us that the Antichrist will lead an army of the undead to knock off the rest of us. (It's something I must have missed in my own Bible reading.) We hear of the "four horsemen of the zombie apocalypse," black-cloaked braineaters with top hats and masks.
A Bennet girl crosses herself after killing a zombie. When she's confronted by two more—a mother and her baby—she declares, "By God, this cannot be!" A couple of couples get married in a church by a Christian pastor.
The women of the 19th century aristocracy are shown here to have dressed fairly modestly—except, of course, for their necklines. As such, we see lots of cleavage, especially when Darcy and Elizabeth fight each other and Darcy slices a few buttons off the top of Elizabeth's dress. (He winds up on top of her, the two breathing heavily.) Elsewhere, the Bennets strap a variety of knives to their thighs and stick them in their boots, giving the camera opportunity to ogle both their bare legs and lacy undergarments.
An older gentleman, examining Darcy's body for bite marks, appears to leer. "No zombie bites on this pristine, young body," he says. Male nudity shows up via classical statue and painting. Mrs. Bennet manipulates events to allow one of her daughters to stay overnight at Mr. Bingsley's (to further the matchmaking). And an unsavory ne'er-do-well runs away with the Bennets' youngest daughter. (We learn it's not the first time he's done so with a young girl.) We see several couples kiss.
Whether in The Walking Dead future or Jane Austen's 1800s, the only good zombie is a dead zombie. As such, we see a quantity of undead heads and limbs chopped off grotesquely. Creatures are skewered, stabbed and thrown in ovens to be baked "alive." Darcy and Elizabeth spend a pleasant afternoon stabbing through soil in a potter's graveyard, so slaughtering the undead (while dodging their outstretched hands) before they can officially rise. Some zombies are blown up. Some have their heads blown off. In flashback we see someone kill his own father (or rather, the zombie that used to be his father). A couple of zombies are hacked in the back of their heads with axes.
'Course, these shamblers are none-too-pretty to begin with, most of their faces sagging down in various states of disrepair—skin flapping off leaving muscle and bone clearly visible. One girl's nose has partly decayed, and mucus bubbles off to the side. And the bites they perpetrate upon the living always look quite gruesome.
Humans get into some pretty serious fights with other humans, too. As mentioned, Darcy and Elizabeth go at it, hitting and kicking each other, breaking up furniture along the way. Two men get into a swordfight wherein grievous injuries are inflicted. The Bennet girls train relentlessly, and they're shown hitting, kicking and leg-whipping one another. Elizabeth battles a behemoth of a man; he chokes her and holds her up by her neck before she finally flings him into a pillar, knocking him senseless and sending part of the house crumbling down around his head.
We see the bodies of British soldiers with gaping holes in their heads. (Someone apparently stole their brains.) A head with the top of the skull missing sits in the middle of a salon. Darcy, as mentioned, beheads shrubs and garden statues. Mrs. Bennet bites her daughter—not because she's a zombie, but because she's drunk.
Crude or Profane Language
One use each of "b--tard," "bloody h---" and "b-gger." God's name is misused once or twice.
Drug and Alcohol Content
When Mrs. Bennet gets tipsy at a ball, she blurts out an unfortunate secret which is overheard by Darcy. Elsewhere, people drink wine, port, sherry, etc.
Other Negative Elements
Some people lie or mislead. Others are just kind of jerks.
Zombies can sometimes be handy metaphors for whatever societal ills we seem to be dealing with at the moment, and they can even wield a bit of spiritual heft if you look at them in just the right way.
That's mostly why I read Seth Grahame-Smith's 2009 best-seller, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, upon which this movie is (loosely) based. But in so doing, I grew to appreciate much more Jane Austen's original book, Pride and Prejudice. The more I read, the less interested I became in the "unmentionables" (as zombies are referred to in the book). Austen's original words were what sang in this added-onto edition—her charm and wit came through in Elizabeth, Darcy and a bevy of other characters. In the end, I reacted to the appearance of a zombie much like the Bennet sisters did: as an annoying distraction to what was really important.
Alas, I don't think the makers of this movie ever quite grasped the charm of either Austen's original novel or the kooky appeal of Grahame-Smith's armed invasion of it. It instead turns this strange, surreal mash-up into a pre-steampunk comic adventure overlaid with apocalyptic urgency.
Just as Grahame-Smith must've looked at Austen's book and said, "You know what this needs? Zombies!" it feels as though the movie's creators looked at Grahame-Smith's book and said, "You know what this needs? A violently dramatic, life-or-death reason for being!" Which is the exact opposite of the silliness Grahame-Smith seemed to have in mind.
I'm certainly not trying to prop up the book in any way, mind you. I'm merely making the point that the movie is little more than a bloody mess (with enough beheadings and limb-choppings for me to question why it didn't get an R rating) that feels a lot like all of its extras: mostly dead.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Lily James as Elizabeth Bennet; Sam Riley as Mr. Darcy; Bella Heathcote as Jane Bennet; Ellie Bamber as Lydia Bennet; Millie Brady as Mary Bennet; Suki Waterhouse as Kitty Bennet; Douglas Booth as Mr. Bingley; Sally Phillips as Mrs. Bennet; Charles Dance as Mr. Bennet; Jack Huston as George Wickham; Lena Headey as Lady Catherine de Bourgh; Matt Smith as Parson Collins
February 5, 2016
May 31, 2016