Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies a masterwork of cinema that will change the way you think about life, love, and happiness?

Clearly no.

Is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies fun and totally worth your entertainment dollar?

That’s a yes!

It’s exactly what you’d expect when combining Jane Austen with zombie movies: women in pretty dresses hacking up undead monsters, and a lot of obsessing over who’s getting married to which eligible bachelor. I had a great time seeing it at a complimentary advance screening in Austin, and it opens today in theaters.

I absolutely loved the Bennet sisters, around whose lives the film revolves. Trained in martial arts in China, they are more than prepared to protect themselves and others from zombie attacks. Elizabeth (Lily James), the most serious of the sisters, is especially committed to her mastery of the deadly arts, and will only accept a husband if he can accept that.

Unfortunately for Elizabeth, she falls in love at first sight with Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley), feared zombie-hunter and upper-class snob. His initially scathing opinion of her (which she overhears, poor thing) changes once he sees Elizabeth and her sisters take down a room full of undead, but the damage of his earlier words is already done. Lizzie is MAD now, and it’s going to take the rest of the movie and Darcy correcting some of his most odious behavior for her to get over it.

Adventures and misadventures abound, many of them comedic. Jane Bennet’s (Bella Heathcote) relationship with Darcy’s best friend is sabotaged. Parson Collins (Matt Smith), the Bennet sisters’ cousin, shows up to marry one of them, and sets his sights on Lizzie. Darcy’s foe George Wickham (Jack Huston) suddenly appears with his own agenda. England’s hero Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Lena Headey) pays a visit to Lizzie, hoping to eliminate this unwanted object of Darcy’s affection. In the midst of all this, a horde of zombies invade London, and it seems like they’ve had help. What darker force is at work here?

I would have enjoyed a couple more fight scenes, but the ones I got were completely satisfying. Though the other Bennet sisters aren’t as hardcore as Lizzie, they’re all dangerous, and Jane is particularly confident and skilled. Since most everyone in the film agrees she’s the prettiest, I liked that she was also one of the strongest. Lizzie and Darcy are a good match because she’s willing to stand up to his arrogance. Matt Smith’s Parson Collins is hysterical and steals every scene he’s in. Sally Phillips is funny as Mrs. Bennet, who never knows when to keep her mouth shut. The clothing is lovely, the zombies are not, and the villain is appropriately villainous.

Was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies perfect? No, there were a few things that caused some eyerolling for me. The intro sequence describing England’s past doesn’t really acknowledge that it became so wealthy by colonizing other countries. While the Bennet sisters are preparing for the ball, it’s supposed to be funny and sexy that they’re strapping on daggers and other weapons under their dresses. But it’s so sexualized that feels out of place with the rest of the movie, which treats the sisters with respect instead of as objects. The graphic novel did a good job showing the dark side of some members of the upper class (most notably how they treat “lower class” people), but the film wants to avoid complexity and make you like all the “good” main characters, so that’s not included here.

Overall, though, I enjoyed the movie. The Bennet sisters are great female characters. They’re allowed to have both weapons and feelings, and the film stresses that they should choose whom they marry. They kick ass, they rescue people, and they care about each other. I’m down with that.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a light, fun, but still often touching movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously or devolve into camp. Check out the trailer below, then get to the theater if you like what you see: