Is it weird that I’m now rooting for a Zack Snyder comeback? After I’ve railed on him for leading the DC Extended Universe down its “grimdark” path, I pretty much written him off as a one-trick pony. But after watching Zack Snyder’s Justice League and enjoying it, I did acquire a new found respect for his style… as long as he doesn’t pound the “grimdark” into his films.
So, when it was announced he was making the Netflix exclusive Army of the Dead, I was hyped. He was practically going back to his roots as he made his big directorial debut with Dawn of the Dead, another movie that I liked. But did I put too much hope on Zack Snyder cooling it with the “grimdark” and just making a fun movie? Well, let’s go find out!
Oh, and I know Army of the Dead has been out for a good while now and most of you have probably watched it. But, just in case you’re one of the few who haven’t Netflix and chilled with this film, this review will be a SPOILER FREE review. Yeah, it’s weird to even worry about making a SPOILER FREE review for a zombie movie… but I’m just saying it, just in case.
Army of the Dead actually doesn’t take place during the middle of a zombie apocalypse. It’s more of a localized zombie event. Las Vegas has become ground zero for a zombie virus outbreak and the entire city has been abandoned and walled off. Las Vegas is scheduled to be wiped off the map to prevent the zombies from spreading out of control throughout the world. A rich man delivers a proposal to Scott Ward, one of the survivors to escape the city before it was walled off, hires him to assemble a team to steal millions from one of the casinos before the nuclear strike happens. However, it does seem as if this rich man may have alternative motivations for the heist…
I will say, right on the outset, Army of the Dead is a fun movie. It’s definitely doesn’t follow the prototype zombie movie as it doesn’t really follow the human condition of how society crumbles when chaos springs about. It does, however, follow the generic zombie video game formula where you blast the zombie horde in the head to kill them permanently. There’s not a whole lot of tension as the team we do follow is more than capable of dispatching most of the undead handily. Granted, that’s not a bad thing as it’s an adrenaline rush. But people coming in expecting a nuanced discussion of how society reacts when the world is crumbling should look elsewhere.
The characters in Army of the Dead are fairly cookie cutter as they follow stereotypes but they’re mostly very likable, even if you know a couple of them are just brought in to be zombie chow in the early goings of the film. However, you won’t remember their names afterwards but you’ll recall what they bring to the team. Frankly, the only character’s name I remember was the helicopter pilot, Peters, just because she had the best, snarky lines throughout the film. Everyone else, I just called them by Batista, rich guy, YouTube guy, safecracker, annoying daughter and more.
Speaking of which, while I did say most of the characters have a certain charm to them, there is one exception and that is the girl who plays Batista’s daughter in Army of the Dead. Her character is the bleeding heart who’s there because she feels the need to rescue people from the zombie apocalypse. She doesn’t add anything to the film other than to add an emotional, but ultimately, unnecessary character arc for Batista. Heck, she does more harm than good for the team in the long run, come to think of it!
The acting in Army of the Dead is mostly serviceable all throughout. As they all play caricatures, you don’t really get to know them… except for Batista’s character. This is probably why he’s allowed to give the best performance in the film as he’s the only one here with an actual emotional arc. Yes, I know he’s credited as Dave Bautista but I still know him from his WWE days. But even if he was a former professional wrestler, he does give a fairly nuanced performance. He’s vulnerable when he needs to be but he’s an outright badass when necessary.
The plot of Army of the Dead is a little too convoluted for its own good. In fact, Zack Snyder did the movie a disservice by trying to cram in too many unnecessary details and plot points. For one thing, it extended the films’ runtime to a fairly obscene 148-minute runtime. It’s too long for something that’s supposed to be as fun as a movie where highly trained people kill zombies while trying to rob a vault. Secondly, they added some plot elements that did not add to the overall story but I guess they were added because they thought it would be cool. I mean, I get that a zombie tiger would be cool in concept. But if it’s just there to be cool, then at least let it do something that would warrant a zombie tiger in your film!
Despite my overall issues with the plot and runtime, I found myself fairly invested throughout the film that I didn’t notice how long Army of the Dead was generally. The action all throughout is just great fun because they make zombies just targets to kill. They can still be dangerous when there’s a lot of them but, because of our heroes superior firepower and copious amount of ammo, they’re able to handle themselves most of the time. It may seem rather silly and unrealistic how accurate they are with their guns and knives as they can easily take aim at the zombies’ heads to take out their brains, eliminating them. But it does make all of the bloodshed come off as rather cathartic as they’re all badasses.
Ultimately, I do got to hand it to Zack Snyder as Army of the Dead is a fun movie.Dave Batista gets to show he’s got some range and not some musclebound action hero here as well. It kind of reminds me of the action movies of old as it’s rather dumb but it’s still super entertaining and a good way to spend a couple of hours. However, you do have to turn off your brain to get the most out of it. I say give Army of the Dead a watch if you can spend the time.
Have you seen Army of the Dead? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!