The Jane Austen adaptation “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” represents a slight shift in subject matter for director Burr Steers, whose previous work consists of two Zac Efron vehicles and an assortment of TV shows. He is no stranger to fluff, but never before has he handled violence and gore – which appear throughout his latest endeavor.
A revamp of Austen’s 1813 classic “Pride and Prejudice,” “Zombies” twists the beloved love story of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy to include martial arts, blood, guts and – of course – the undead.
“Zombies” is based off of a 2009 novel of the same name by Seth Grahame-Smith, who has made a career for himself by rewriting well-known stories; many know him for his book “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter,” which was also turned into a film.
Lily James (“Downton Abbey,” “Cinderella,” “Wrath of the Titans”) stars as protagonist Elizabeth, a fierce zombie slayer and society woman, trying to secure her future with a suitable marriage and stay alive in an English countryside ravaged by zombies. As she struggles to protect her friends and family from the undead, she meets Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley of “Maleficent,” “On the Road”), the contemptuous and audacious man who steals her heart.
Although the main characters of "Zombies" are ostensibly Austen’s creations merely transferred to a different world, the characters change to such a degree that by the end of the film, they are virtually unrecognizable. The plot, too, starts off very Austen, and halfway through takes a sharp turn into the land of zombie slaying.
In Austen’s novel, Elizabeth and Darcy are caught in a hostile relationship with one another, stabbing at each other with wounding remarks. But in the movie, this sparring is coupled with physical fighting – a surprisingly entertaining juxtaposition.
Of course, film adaptations of books do not have to be entirely faithful to the source material. However, the general structure of the movie should somewhat resemble the book. Unfortunately, it seems as if the writer-director was too focused on introducing a unique zombie adaptation and lost the natural flow of the movie.
The movie is extremely gory. If the blood and guts served the plot of the movie, the graphic slaughter would be acceptable – but it does not. Viewers will walk out the theater having seen a mediocre adaptation of a timeless story, filled with unnecessary violence and fantasy elements.