Al and I were given the opportunity to attend a free screening of the upcoming film “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” As someone who read both the original and the remake, I was excited to see the work come to life. Until, that is, I actually saw the movie.
Darcy and Elizabeth are played by Poor Man’s Adam Scott and the most unlikeable character on “Downton Abbey,” respectively. The two had romantic chemistry similar to two north-pole magnets. Their banter was poorly delivered and remained lost in translation amidst the lack of sexual tension.
While everything else seemed to be modernized, from Darcy’s ridiculous leather trench coat–similar to one you might find on a 14 year-old with their parents at Hot Topic–to the introduction of modern zombie lore, the humor remained stuck in the 18th century. Don’t get me wrong; “Pride and Prejudice” contains some clever jokes and witty dialogue. It was simply delivered by someone about as lively as their undead co-stars.
Furthermore, the effects were underwhelming. It seemed as though someone saw an intern using a Snapchat filter and thought, “We could use this.” Every zombie scene used the same blurry effect and red filter to convey a sense of…. Nothing. It had no significance. It was used on the undead and living alike. I’m not sure if we were supposed to infer fear or predatory instinct or shock. The artistic director must have taken a sick day.
The actual zombies were no better. The movie overused the “character’s face is never shown until they finally turn and the protagonist realizes with horror that they are, in fact, a zombie (in spite of the fact that the live in a zombie-infested universe)” trick. It was painfully predictable and lacked any real shock value.
While there were some genuinely funny moments, much like an SNL skit that went too long, they quickly lost their steam. Matt Smith played the goofy Mr. Collins. Unfortunately, he was terribly one-dimensional and crossed the line to annoying.
On the flip side, scenes that were not meant to be funny were met with laughter. The film opens with Darcy brutally executing an undead. What I’m sure was meant to be action-packed and thrilling, was much like watching a middle schooler play pretend “Star Wars” with a curtain rod in their garage. Darcy was, unfortunately, a wimpy hero who lacked any real screen presence.
In a universe where young women are sent to China and Japan to study fighting and zombies infest all of Europe, there is a surprising lack of any people of color. It appears white people have also taken over England. The entire main cast, supporting cast and clearly CGI’d extras were white. There wasn’t even that one extra in the back that the cameraman zoomed in on as if to say, “We’ve done our part in creating diversity. Look at this one kid. You’re welcome.”
Please spare me the argument of “It’s 1800’s England so it makes sense that they are predominately white.” First, the argument suggests people of color haven’t been invented yet (which is inherently wrong). Second, when dealing with a story about zombies becoming the greatest threat to the British Army after the Revolutionary War, it’s fair to say there could have been at least one non-white main character.
I’m unsure of who the intended audience was for this movie. While the women were intended to be badass fighting machines and Elizabeth is regarded as one of the best-written female characters, they were frequently hyper-sexualized and belittled. The Bennett sisters are seen getting ready in costumes best described as “high school theater meets dominatrix.” Even after surviving an explosion, the camera was able to perfectly capture Elizabeth’s breasts perfectly pushed up to her chin and heaving with every breath. I need one of those bras.
While the sisters were supposed to be expert zombie killers, save for one scene, they are portrayed as weak, boy crazy and frivolous. The younger sisters are never actually fight an undead, despite their impressive training, but we know exactly which boys they are lusting after. Nearly every time Elizabeth sees a zombie, she freezes up, stares blankly and waits for Darcy to shoot it. But hey, they show her holding a gun. Misogyny is over.
Overall, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is underwhelming in its terrible acting, poor execution and complete lack of any real plot outside of Jane Austen’s original. The scariest part of the entire film was that some people actually liked it.