Sunday, 21 February 2016

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

"I shall never relinquish my sword for a ring."

The first and perhaps most important question one must ask going into a movie, of any kind, is this; who is this movie for? Is it for fans of Austen or fans Romero? Or is it aiming for the same group of people that liked ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’, I’m just kidding as such a group does not exist. But my point is, does ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ want to be seen as a tongue in cheek parody of the classic novel and the zombie genre, or does it want to be taken seriously? Based on the film I’d say it wants to achieve the latter, and it hasn’t succeeded.

In an 18th Century England overrun by ravenous hoards of the undead, a young woman by the name of Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) deals with issues of manners, upbringing, morality, education, marriage and zombies.

To be fair to ‘Pride and prejudice and Zombies’ it does deliver what it promises. It is indeed an adaptation of Austen’s novel with zombies peppered throughout the plot. But it’s a gimmick that wear off rather quickly, and it is soon after that I realised that, beyond that gimmick, the film has little else to offer. Not only that, but the end result is an extremely jumbled affair that ultimately disappoints those wanting Austen action and gore galore.

Instead of blending the two together seamlessly ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ stumbles through its plot and it ultimately amount to very little. Instead of becoming inventive or entertaining with how they weave the two stories of social standing and battling the undead together the movie feels like three films stitched together.

The first film is one where the world and characters are established and in which the plot is set in motion. During this section there are a few moments of deadpan and sly humour that show promise of a creative amalgamation such as the Bennet sisters sitting in a drawing room, making pleasantries and cleaning their weapons and comparing their expertise within the deadly arts. There are also a few moment of eerie tension in which the undead are given a somewhat menacing presence. But there are also o many moments that feel as if they are meant to be significant and ultimately amount to nothing, almost as if they were stalling for time. Stalling is actually the last thing they should have been doing, as the film is far too long as it is.

The second section of the film seems to do away with the zombie elements to focus purely on the plot of the Austen novel before the third act changes trajectory to wrap up some weak plot for a unified zombie army to take over the world. It’s all very confused and befuddled, as if the writer became too wrapped up in one aspect of the story before realising he still has to deliver on the horror front and then rushed to finish it.

The huge action set-pieces are rather unusual, the gore has a decidedly decorous nature to it, as does the rest of the horror aspects. None of them are inventive or even fun, they are just loud, noisy and highly clich├ęd. There are exploding bridges with characters narrowly making it over, swordfights to the death (that mysteriously seem to last for hours on end, as it is dusk in one scene, then dawn in the next with both duellists seemingly full of vigour and fitness) and jumping through crowds of zombies. None of these scenes have any sizable context, so their scale and importance remains unknown and the tension is lost as a result. But it insists upon taking itself so seriously that it never feels fun or entertaining, just boring.

But at the same time, none of the actors really have the bravado or talent to carry the scenes of romance and drama. I was never swept p within the human emotions of the situations, I never cared for the characters or empathised with them, I felt more compelled for the zombies. There are a few actors who seem to be in on the joke, and understand the tone the film should be going for. Both of the present Lannister’s Charles Dance and Lena Headey are on the right track, and especially Matt Smith, who provides the only real sense of comedy within the film.

 ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ is rarely as engaging or as frightening as it wants to be, and ultimately becomes a repetitive mess.

Result: 3/10

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