Pride & Prejudice & Zombies: This is the (Fun!) One They Fight In

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There is a certain danger that lies at the surface when a writer messes with classic literature. After all, there is a reason something overlaps generations and stands the test of time, emerging as a distinct classic. I respect this, but I’m not bothered by creative liberties taken with classic literature. Or at least I haven’t been. pride & prejudice & zombies

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies (2016) Film Review

pride & prejudice & zombies

Relinquishing her sword for a ring is not something Lizzy Bennet (Lily James) is poised to do. She’s a skilled warrior made so by circumstances; a mysterious illness infects citizens of Meryton. Against this rising force the Bennet’s must fight against the zombies that walk among them. Into their small community arrives the wealthy Charles Bingley (Douglas Booth), who takes a shine to Lizzy’s elder sister, Jane (Bella Heathcote). Among Bingley’s party is (much to the delight of Mrs. Bennet) the even wealthier Darcy (Sam Riley) who’s yearly income is double that of his friend.  

As Jane and Bingley form an attachment, Lizzy and Darcy begin a sparring relationship that inspires Lizzy to match each of Darcy’s intellect challenges. Unbeknownst to Lizzy, Darcy falls a little bit harder each time the wry Miss Bennet bests him. 

Finding the best place to start in discussing the pros and cons, good and bad, awesome and fail of this adaptation isn’t easy. Why? The reason is simple. Let’s face it, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is (kind of) a hot mess. And I adore (nearly) every second of it. Perhaps the inclusion of the “bad” is the best starting point since working up to positive leaves us with something to anticipate. The film started off in a way that left me gleeful. I love the set up (Darcy in an epic duster coat SLAYS THINGS) and the fact that the opening credits is a kind of “story time.”

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Then once the first 15 minutes or thereabout pass, the story hits a stalemate. This is part of the reason I shut the film off 30-40 minutes in. The script bookends itself to complement the novel whereas some of the middle portions widely differ, and I feel like this creates a sometimes awkward transition into the next sequence of events. But after a few days away, I finally finished the film and let me tell you, my reaction takes a 180 turn for the better. I became enthralled with the latter portion.  

Where to begin? To allow myself to share all of my fangirl feels would take a number of pages because, yes, I do have that positive of a feeling. One such reason for this is the cast, who are exceptional. Lily James (War & Peace, Cinderella, Downton Abbey) again leads a strong group of young British talent and is, as usual, at her most charming. (Only this time she gets to play with a fiercer persona.) Then there is Charles Dance as Mr. Bennet, and it’s pleasant to see Douglas Booth (Romeo and Juliet, Great Expectations)in something again.

pride & prejudice & zombies
Pride & Prejudice & Zombies: This is the (Fun!) One They Fight In. Review of the 2016 adaptation with Lily James. #PeriodDrama #Zombies #PrideAndPrejudice Click To Tweet

But it’s Matt Smith (Doctor Who) who steals the show as Parson Collins. He plays the role as if it were tailor-made for him; every (all too rare) scene he’s in is comedy gold. My only flip-flop casting choice lands on Sam Riley’s shoulders. As I already allude to, I did love the opening sequence (which the dude commands), but as the film progresses, I doubt him a number of times. That said, I think by the end, I lean more in the “approve” camp and suspect with subsequent viewings I’ll be Team Darcy as played by Riley.

I shall never relinquish my sword for a ring. – Lizzy Bennet 

Looking beyond the cast, the rest of the production sparkles with magic, comedy and romance. The costumes are beautiful with unique elements like the use of familiar patterns and style juxtaposed to create a steampunk vibe. The atmosphere is overall, dark, but that’s to be expected. What is unexpected is the great departure this script takes from the novel. For a story such as this, I approve of these changes though to say more would spoil the effect, so I won’t.  

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If you step into this expecting it to be what it is – a literary mash-up that doesn’t take itself seriously, then I have a feeling you’ll enjoy this. If for no other reason, fans of Matt Smith should see this merely for his portrayal of Collins. True this isn’t as masterfully romantic (because of time constraints) and the zombie attacks could have done with fewer numbers, but I’d argue the final romantic scene between Darcy and Lizzy holds its own quite beautifully. (Plus it’s this that won me over to Riley’s Darcy.) That, for me, is quite enough to overcome any minor disagreements. It makes me look at characters with fresh eyes, which I respect, and gives us plenty to love.

Everything from the Bennet women sitting in a parlor cleaning muskets and Mrs. Bennet’s compliments of Lady Catherine’s pantaloons (yes, this happens) to the final swoony moment, this is fun. It’s a creative, witty gem of a costume drama. Though not fit for everyone, is a delight from beginning to end for those of us OK when the rules bend within the immortal words of Jane Austen. ♥

CONTENT: There is some zombie violence; none of which is terribly graphic although the just-out-of-frame head bashing or head shots are certainly impacting. A couple engages in a literal sparring match when a proposal goes array. There might be some minor innuendo. The film is PG13.

About Rissi JC

amateur graphic designer. confirmed bookaholic. bubbl’r enthusiast. critical thinker. miswesterner. social media coordinator. writer.

24 comments

  1. Great review. :) I agree, Matt Smith as Mr. Collins stole the show…he was hilarious! I liked the ridiculousness of the whole premise and how it sort of managed to work. The script kept a surprising amount of quotes from the book (though they moved some of them around) and even threw in a few from other Austen novels.

    I thought the movie was interesting, and worth a watch anyway, even though it didn't become a new favorite for me. Honestly, I'm just not into the whole zombie thing, and I never came around to the guy playing Darcy. He was a bit creepy and I couldn't get past his raspy voice. (Especially after Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy because let's face it, he has the most perfect voice ever, ha.)

    1. Thanks so much, Kristin. I'm always glad to see you stop by to share your thoughts. :)

      Matt Smith was the ideal actor for Collins. He played him with great style and yes, the ridiculous factor worked quite well for this role.

      I'll have to try and pick up on more of those Austen quotes next time around. How fun to know that the script incorporated so much Austen love.

      This is certainly an interesting, complex and somehow really good film. Sure it's not Oscar bound, but I don't think it took itself too seriously and I really liked that. As for Sam Riley? I know what you mean. That final scene did win me over though. I'll confess there were stars in my eyes. ;)

      But, yes x 100! McFayden? The perfect Mr. Darcy. :)

    1. Yeah, I'm not a zombie fan either, Miranda. Never have been and probably never will be. This is why I find it so odd that I adore the film Warm Bodies (contemporary zombie romcom) and of course, this one. I loved the romantic nature and the actors, including the amazing Matt Smith. Brilliant acting there!

      PS: did you know he and Lily James (Lizzy) are rumored to be dating?

  2. Hehe, great review Rissi — I already wanted to see this, but now I think I want to even more. You make it sound very fun. I've just been debating whether it's worth a rental price or if I should wait until I can snag it for free. I'm really interested to see this cast! I feel like I may end up wishing that they'd done a straight P&P… although watching people kill zombies in regency clothes has to be an experience. :P

    1. It IS fun, Sarah. Such a great mix of comedy and romance with plenty of the period drama elements we love. Watching people kill zombies in this timeline IS indeed an experience… and overall, I 100% loved it. I feel like the film didn't take itself too seriously which is in the pro category with such a film as this. As to your dilemma, best of luck. I bought a copy and don't regret it, but most people probably enjoy this as a one-time bit of popcorn entertainment. Let me know what you think if you see this one – and as always, thanks so much for visiting. :)

  3. I loved this movie so much! I also read the book some time ago and was very surprised to see all these big changes, and I actually liked them a lot as well! I found the plot more entertaining than the one of the book <3

    Lipstick and Mocha

    1. I was surprised by all the changes as well, Carla. I'd finished the novel just prior/or during the watching of this. When all is said and done, most of the changes I approved of because it was another way this story stands apart. As for this being more entertaining, I'd agree. Overall, I liked the movie WAY better than the book. :)

      Thanks so much for visiting! :)

  4. I'm not really a zombie movie kind of girl, but I am going to give this one a go, since it just may be something I like.;) And, it has Matt Smith in it. lol.

    1. I'm not either, Amanda (never have been and don't pan to become one), but this one was quite entertaining. Once I "got over" the zombie-ness, I did love it. Good new is, Matt is a BIG part of the reason this is so amazing. ;) Enjoy – and let me know if you see it!

  5. I loved it.

    Saw it in the theater opening week, watched it with a ridiculous grin al the way through. Sam Riley struck me as an odd choice at first, but after my second viewing, he's grown on me. I highly approve of the outfit, too. Butt-kicking Darcy in black leather coats? YES!!

    Matt Smith is either an insane bundle of energy or the most adorable person on the planet. I have yet to decide. His Collins was A+.

    1. *waves* Hi, Charity.

      In the end, I did too! There's SO much to love about this one. The proposal, Matt Smith, the scene with Lady Catherine, not to mention the way the story differed from the novel (which I thought was brilliant). Everything about this film just… worked!

      Sam Riley made a HUGE leap in endearing himself as Darcy with that final scene… I mean, I don't know what it was, but it was perfect. Like you, I think I'll like him better the second time through as well.

      Darcy in leather coats? 100x YES! ;)

      I like your assessment of Matt Smith. He could be either. No matter what, his portrayal of Collins was A++. ;)

  6. Great review, Rissi! I'm SO so glad you ended up liking this. I do remember wondering, the first time I watched it, if I liked Sam Riley's gravelly voice. But by the end, it had grown on me. Especially in that final swoony scene between he and Lily. This movie is definitely very cheesy in several parts, but if you don't go into it expecting perfect Austen, but fun and crazy Austen, I think you'll like it better. I can see where people may not love it as much, but for me it's definitely near the top of my fave Austen films! :)

    1. I so loved this one, Kara. It's going to be a frequent re-watch for sure. In fact as I've talked about it with you all in these comments, I've wanted to see it again. :)

      By the end Sam Riley had 100% won me over as Darcy. His interpretation is a unique one, but then everyone's character SHOULD be slightly altered in this adaptation considering it's about Zombies and chopping their heads off. The final scene when he proposes? Yeah, my fangirl heart was a goner.

      Well said. I say the same thing about Austenland. No these aren't "classic" Austen but if you go into them expecting nothing more than a good time, who knows? You might find yourself with a new perspective and certainly, will walk away with a big smile. :)

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