Tuesday, June 16, 2009

All astonishment

One of the friends for whom I'm house-sitting was really excited for The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou when it came out a few years ago. She was ultimately a little disappointed that it didn't live up to her hype; that might have colored my opinion while watching the film, because I was bored and indifferent to the characters and the plot.

It's supposed to be both a parody of and a tribute to Jacques Cousteau, I believe. Bill Murray's aging explorer deals with bad relationships, a possible son, an elusive sea creature, evil rivals, and pirates. (Actually, the fact that the pirates spoke Tagalog was kind of cool. It's not a language usually heard in American films.) His quirky, ragtag crew are all misfits of some sort, searching for a deep-sea jaguar shark that the scientific world doesn't believe exists. There are metaphors in there, to be sure. I just wasn't very drawn in by it all.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, on the other hand, rocked! I admit, the skeptical part of me, the Austen purist, thought at first that nothing --nothing!-- should be allowed to soil the sheer, brilliant piece of literature that is Pride and Prejudice. But that damn Intellectual Property class has affected my thinking more than I thought it could: the great thing about public domain works is the possibility for endless creative engines.

And it worked! Fighting zombies actually fit in with the much-beloved P&P characters; the fight scenes were a bit random, but also completely hilarious. The book followed Austen's original pretty closely, including most of the dialogue. Grahame-Smith took a few small liberties with the general plot (the biggest one involving Wickham's fate, which had me rolling with laughter), but other than that remained reverently faithful to the story itself.

All of England are fighting the zombie hordes, and I loved how the fact that the Bennet sisters studied with Chinese zombie-fighting kung fu masters still marked their class status, true to one of Austen's themes (wealthier citizens studied in the Japanese warrior schools).

A good, quick read that can really only be fully appreciated if readers are familiar with the original ... but enjoyable nonetheless for those that aren't.

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