Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) is one of the five warrior daughters of Mr. Bennet (Charles Dance), trained in the Shaolin arts to combat the zombies plaguing the land. Elizabeth has an uneasy relationship with Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley), whom she views as an unjustly prejudiced individual. However, with the danger of a full on zombie apocalypse on the horizon, Elizabeth and Darcy must put aside their personal pride and social prejudices to rid the country of the zombie menace and find true love with each other.
It was in 2009 when when author Seth Grahame-Smith took the text of Jane Austin’s “Pride and Prejudice” and rewrote it to include zombie and ninja elements. It took seven years for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to make it to the big screen, arriving four years after the Tim Burton-produced adaptation of Grahame-Smith’s follow-up Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Burr Steers (17 Again, Charlie St. Cloud) writes and directs this adaptation, with actress Natalie Portman down as one of the film’s producers.
It can be safe to assume that the filmmakers expect that the audience would already have a knowledge of the basic story of Jane Austin’s novel going into this film. Indeed, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is told with its tongue firmly in cheek, whether narrating about zombies wanting to eat more brains or the women talking about possible suitors while training for battle. Since the original novel was already something of a novelty, this film adaptation becomes one by default, even though the cast of the film is playing the events totally straight.
There are times when the film seems bogged down by the “Pride and Prejudice” and forgets about the zombies. This is particularly true when it comes to Elizabeth choosing between her possible suitors, including Mr. Darcy, Mr. Collins (Matt Smith), and Mr. Wickham (Jack Huston). However, the film still has its fair share of (PG-13 rated) zombie killing, as well as Game of Thrones‘ Lena Headey sporting an eye patch as a very badass Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
At the very least, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies will probably attract people who haven’t already seen the countless other adaptations of this story. Even those already familiar with the story would likely be interested in how Jane Austin’s original text was changed to incorporate a full-on zombie apocalypse.