I’m not sure what you’d think of doing when one of the most famous novels in the world copyright lapses? Probably not what Seth Grahame-Smith thought of doing which is to take Jane Austen’s novel, Pride and Prejudice, and add in some zombies. I’m not sure how many people thought Pride and Prejudice was lacking in zombies, but zombies are what we’ve got.
Burr Steers (How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, 17 Again) took on the task of turning the Grahame-Smith version into a screenplay and then decided to direct it as well. I know that many people will see this whole thing as sacrilege, an opinion shared by my girlfriend (who’s favourite book this is!), so it was with some considerable surprise that she absolutely loved the film, well, that may be taking it a little far, but she enjoyed it a lot more than she expected and probably more than me.
The story has elements taken straight from the book, dialogue taken straight from the book with words like ‘brains’ and ‘zombies’ scattered in to make it relevant to the theme of the film. They also borrowed a couple of elements from the British TV series, starring Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, and the famous ‘swimming in the lake’ scene.
Lily James (Downton Abbey, Wrath of the Titans) stars as Elizabeth Bennet, Sam Riley (Control, Maleficent) stars as Mr. Darcy, known as Colonel Fitzwilliam Darcy (you get the impression they were tempted to add ‘zombie hunter’ onto that but a good thing they didn’t). Douglas Booth (Jupiter Ascending, Noah) is Mr. Bingley, Sally Phillips (Bridget Jones Diary) is Mrs. Bennet and Charles Dance (Game of Thrones, Alien 3) is Mr. Bennet but it is, without doubt, Matt Smith (Doctor Who, Terminator Genisys) who steals not just the scenes he’s in, but the whole movie as Parson Collins.
The movie has lots of elements of tongue-in-cheek humour and Smith, with his camp Parson routine, takes them all. It feels like he’s the veteran actor amongst a group of newcomers and he’s just relaxed and having a laugh. To say that with veterans like Charles Dance and Sally Phillips in the movie and someone as good as Sam Riley says a lot about the performance of Smith. It shows why he was such a good Doctor Who and makes you wonder why he isn’t in more films.
The DVD is great quality, there aren’t a lot of extras: a very short gag real, mostly showing Matt Smith having a laugh, and some deleted scenes which you can see why they were deleted.
Overall this is a fun film, there is an odd juxtaposition between the fighting and then the elements that are evidently taken from the original novel at times. The direction is ok; at times it can feel like a low budget movie so I was surprised to find it had an estimated budget of $28,000,000 (the same as the 2005 film). I guess those names, plus the costumes and fantastic old stately homes that are used, didn’t come cheap. The editing makes the film feel a little rushed in parts but with a running time of 107 minutes, vs 135 for the 2005 film and 327 for the TV series, you can sort of see why.
Purists will probably hate it, but Steer has created something I think men and women (who aren’t purists) will enjoy.