Saturday, 6 August 2016

film review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Remember the days when there was only one in-flight movie, which you didn’t want to watch? Well, nowadays there’s a whole raft to choose from, mostly ones you don’t want to watch, and some you feel a little curiosity about. This was how I ended up watching Pride and Prejudice and Zombies on a tiny screen with scratchy sound, several miles up in the sky on a nine hour flight.

I’ve not read the book, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, that is. I have, of course, read the original zombie-free Pride and Prejudice, and watched the BBC dramatisation. But I’m not a zombie horror fan in general (despite rather enjoying Rowland’s White Trash Zombie series), so I was a little dubious.

However, this is fun. It is played completely straight (for the most part) as a historical romance, just in a context where there are zombies roaming the land, and everyone is trained in martial arts to protect themselves. It has the ‘same’ underlying plot as the original: Elizabeth Bennett is prejudiced against the proud Darcy, but they each learn the error of their ways.

The zombie context changes the flavour of the romance, however. (You don’t say?) Despite the standard trope of Mrs Bennett trying to get good marriages for her daughters, all five of the Bennett sisters are experts in Chinese-style martial arts (rather than the more aristocratic Japanese-style). Darcy’s eye-patch wearing aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh is a renowned zombie hunter, and the dastardly Wickham is up to something more sinister than elopement. Matt Smith as the oily Parson Collins hits all the right notes. There is some of the original dialogue, marginally altered for context, although delivered in different circumstances: Elizabeth’s rejection of Darcy’s first proposal contrasts dialogue and action brilliantly. The zombie apocalypse finale and heroic rescue does deviate somewhat from the original.

This is pure nonsense, but the straight way it is delivered, and the clever interweaving of the original and the zombie plot makes for fun viewing. It readily passes the Bechdel test, as various of the female characters talk about martial arts and zombie killing (in addition to prospective husbands). I was somewhat distracted by the economic viability of the scenario: how did the peasants grow the food given they had no protection from the roaming zombies? But nevermind; I enjoyed this, and it was definitely engrossing enough to while away nearly two of those nine hours in flight.

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