Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy have a lot more to worry about than just love in the adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” an exact replica of Jane Austen’s beloved book with the addition of zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith. The film is almost an exact replica of its original source material, and with the addition of the zombies, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is more of a remix than anything else.
The film begins with a summary, or an abbreviated fictitious history lesson of England from 1700-1800, and serves as the back story for the characters’ current situation. Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley), or Colonel Darcy, is a zombie killer. He even has a particular kind of fly which detects dead flesh and can weed who is recently infected with zombie-itis (it could be a thing) and who isn’t. He is a no nonsense kind of man and is as serious as they come. Because of this, he can sometimes come off as a bit stuffy and arrogant.
Elsewhere, Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) and her sisters Jane (Bella Heathcote), Mary (Millie Brady), Lydia (Ellie Bamber), and Kitty (Suki Waterhouse) studied abroad in China to learn fighting and other skills and so they’re sword-wielding sisters. Among their other issues is their mother’s desperation to marry them off to wealthy men. And so the courting begins, starting with Mr. Darcy’s friend, Mr. Bingley (Douglas Booth), who is quite taken with Jane and Mr. Darcy with Elizabeth. But the zombie problem looms and Mr. Wickham (Jack Huston) is the only one sympathetic to their cause.
One of the biggest issues with the film is that it is almost an exact copy of Jane Austen’s novel. This is probably the point of the whole thing, but clearly there is no creativity involved. Zombies, which have become a go-to monster, don’t play a major role and are used to paint a more warrior-like atmosphere for everyone involved, but aren’t particularly scary in their own right. Essentially, they don’t provide any potential for character development other than the strange need to arm the Bennet sisters and turn them into fighters.
Lily James and Sam Riley are well cast in their roles as Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, respectively. They play their roles, but there isn’t very much chemistry between them as there could have been. Most of the characters are stable, but there’s simply no fire. Matt Smith provides a bit of humor in his portrayal as the over-enthusiastic Mr. Collins and Lena Heady looks ridiculous in an eye patch as Lady Catherine, which only adds to the silliness of the entire ordeal.
“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” doesn’t provide anything new in terms of story or character development. All the characters are the same, the interactions are the same, and the plot is the same. The inclusion of zombies doesn’t make it a kick-ass tale of love and is ultimately a disappointing new take on Jane Austen’s novel.