Last weekend, I spent some quality time with Mary Robinette Kowal, and that quality time included a viewing of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Fear not, we had Manhattans.
We live tweeted a small number of observations, mostly plot based, but still I felt an overwhelming need to point out some of the other things that deeply irritated me about this Austen adaptation. So here you go.
- This was indeed an adaptation using characters and places from Pride and Prejudice, but tonally, thematically, and in terms of the point of the book is nowhere near the original novel, or even other adaptations. Pride and Prejudice is from LIZZIE’S point of view. Not in this version. This film, much like the PPZ book (which I did indeed read a while back so that I would have the right to complain about it; I am less kind in retrospect) fundamentally misunderstands what Jane Austen was doing in her novels. Austen’s works are specifically about women’s experiences in her world. Women are in every scene. Women are the vast majority of the point of view characters. Adding zombies to Austen should absolutely change it, but I was disappointed with the direction that the changes took, which I thought were less than awesome.
- Plot/Character Focus: This adaptation comes across as, ultimately, a fight of Darcy vs. Wickham (with Lizzie as the prize) framed with their conflicting philosophies of killing zombies vs. coexisting with them. Which means that Lizzie is sidelined from her own book. NO.
- Lizzie: for what she was given to work with, Lily James did fine. But she was not given much, really, and a whole lot of her costuming was just… wrong. Wrongity wrong. Astonishingly wrong. Off the shoulder sleeves on that blue ballgown? Seriously? The initial Lizzie/Darcy proposal fight scene, however, was what I wanted the whole movie to be. Alas, it was not.
- Social Status: How does the ability to dance play into zombie killing skills? This is a burning question that could have been answered in an epic manner and was not addressed. So much more could have been done, especially exploring how there are now two methods to becoming an Accomplished Lady: The Typical Refinements and Martial Skills. Show us how the Bennet sisters demonstrate their Marriage Mart value through their martial skills. Is that what’s holding poor Mary Bennet back, rather than her piety?
- Insufficient Bennet Battle Squads: There were only like 2 scenes of the Bennet Sisters Kicking Ass In Regency Wear. Which, frankly, is why I signed up for this film. I was very disappointed in how sidelined the sisters were from their own book. Have them rescuing Darcy and Bingley constantly. Have them rescue Collins too, for good comic measure. This story is not about Darcy and Wickham. Also, were we short a ball that could have been turned into a zombie attack? You want to add something? ADD THAT.
- Double Plus Un-fun Darcy: Sam Riley was … not my favorite incarnation of Darcy. This version of Darcy was completely dour. He had no twinkle, no verve, no particular reason to keep living in this incarnation of the P&P universe other than sheer cussedness and an outsized sense of duty. It is incredibly difficult to see what Lizzie would have seen in this version of Darcy AT ALL, given that what Lizzie appreciates about Darcy once she gets to know him is the combination of his honorable nature and his overwhelming urge to gently, twinklingly troll his friends and loved ones. Darcy is shy, but once you get to know him and he’s comfortable, he’s playful. That was decidedly missing here. Also, his hair was awful. The leather duster coat for zombie hunting was almost acceptable.
- Wickham: Was just creepy in this version. No reason why Lizzie would find him sympathetic, never mind attractive. Just EW all around to the point where switching up the plot so Lydia is literally kidnapped rather than seduced and ruined at least makes more sense.
- Catherine De Burgh and Mr. Bennet: Both excellent castings (Lena Headey and Charles Dance, respectively). Turning Lady Catherine into The Ultimate Zombie Hunter was awesome, but we needed to see more. We got one flashback, and one pretty decent fight scene for her ultimatum to Lizzie. MORE.
- Jane and Bingley: In this case, they were well handled. Bingley was pretty and relatively useless even when soldiering, and Jane was spot on and lovely.
- Parson Collins: Matt Smith’s comic stylings were kind of wasted. One scene of silly dancing, and that is it. I hope it was a good paycheck.
- Charlotte: Completely underserved and underused. Lizzie’s wonderful snarky relationship with her best friend is how we understand that she and Darcy are actually quite compatible. That’s missing here.
So, there you go. I don’t think I’d recommend this as a film in general, but it was entertaining enough with an adult beverage to hand if you can get past the whole not-actually-understanding-the-point-of-Jane-Austen thing.