Army of the Dead is nothing more and nothing less than any other zombie film. It’s filled with the gory battles between men and zombies, resulting in mayhem and carnage. It also has the usual no-character arc problem and unnecessarily prolonged runtime. But it also has a sense of uniqueness and visions of lore which even though not fully utilized, yet effective enough to ask us for more. So, here is my Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead Review.
The film starts with a bio-engineered Zombie with alien DNA being transported from Area 51 when a car crashes into the transporting vehicle. The Zombie escapes, infecting soldiers who then descend onto Las Vegas. Then a wall of containers is built around Vegas to contain the Zombies inside. The film shows this as there aren’t any zombies in the outer world which is bullshit. We know stuff like that cannot be contained, especially considering that they are taking time to decide whether to nuke the city or not! The current pandemic is a great reminder of thinking that stuff like this can be contained easily. There are literally zombie animals. Even if you somehow manage to contain human zombies, how do you contain animal zombies from spreading?
But of course, the film isn’t about what happens outside but rather what happens inside. A crew enters Las Vegas to recover the $200 million worth of money and get the chance to keep $50 million for themselves if successful. Obviously, the planner will send one of his own men with them who would perpetuate the original secret plan. That plan itself is stupid because it involves getting the head of one of the Alpha zombies. Why do you need a heist operation involving money to achieve that? This is because the alpha zombies are always there to welcome you on the edge whenever anyone passes through? Just attack those two and take it. Garret Dillahunt’s character himself says that the government is involved so how is it hard?
There are your normal zombies and there are the Alpha zombies who move fast and are intelligent. By intelligent, I literally mean tribal sort of zombies. There is some soapish stuff about family troubles but this is enhanced by real problems in refugee camps involving abusive guards. The King and Queen of the Zombies are interestingly portrayed, there are real relationships between them and their Alpha followers. In fact, they literally have more character depth than your human characters! Traveling through a devastated Las Vegas, fighting zombies in the dark, on a strict time schedule (because of the nuke which is preponed to strike in a couple of hours). Things are tough for the team who die one by one. The ending is absurdly awful as there is no real reward for any choice or sacrifice. It’s a pretty good zombie action film but far too long. At least 30 minutes could have been cut from its 148-minute run time. Lengthy films are only necessary if that time is used to develop characters but there isn’t any character depth in this one. We actually don’t care about many of the characters dying because we don’t even understand them.
Now, when I heard that Dave Bautista was the main lead, I knew we would not get anything relatable but he proves me wrong. Surprisingly, it’s the emotional scenes where he shines the most. Yes, he was decent in his cameo in Blade Runner 2049 but that was just it. We haven’t seen stuff like that from him. So, cheers to him. He’s deserved this. He’s worked hard to reach this level. Of course, the character still isn’t great as we never actually experience him leading the team or evolving but Dave’s acting sees this through.
And then there’s his daughter Kate Ward, played by Ella Purnell. Both the character and Ella are awful in this one. She literally is the reason why everyone gets killed in the end. Having stupid characters is a necessity in zombie movies but not when it affects the final reward of the main characters. And the funny part is that she can’t even save the woman for whom she made the stupid decisions. And those decisions result in no real payoff in the end for our main characters. Yes, the character is bad but Ella Purnell’s performance made it even worse. She just couldn’t handle the emotional scenes and that made her motivations even funnier.
As for the others, then as mentioned before, they aren’t given any character arcs. The performances are good but they all feel flat and unrelatable. Tig Notaro probably shines the most as her character is very funny and her timing makes it even better. What’s better is that she didn’t even need to use any gender jokes to make it work. Matthias and Omar’s friend chemistry is great and works well. Finally, Nora Arnezeder is also amazing as Lily but like the others, her sacrifice does not bring any reward in the end. Everyone else is either bad or does not get enough screentime to work.
Fresh of the success of Justice League, Zack Snyder delivers again in terms of spectacle. The film is certainly one of the most graphic zombie films, with a level of violence and bloody gore on par with some of the best rated-R films, but in an urban warfare setting. But it somehow doesn’t feel excessive in the context of its own story, and the film makes the smart choice to often undercut the violence with cheap humor.
The action is the usual Zack Snyder epicness, so in other words, it’s fabulous. There are few filmmakers who can direct action as well as Snyder, or who intuitively understand the way a given character will react and perform during big action beats, and he is all-in on the action spectacle. The Cinematography from Zack is also decent although not amazing. I especially hated it when an image would appear after a blur and then followed by another blur. The score, as well, is not memorable but decent enough to work. Editing is obviously average, especially for its runtime.
Ultimately, it was a decent action survival film. One with core flaws, especially with characterization but almost forgiving in the creative aspects with Zack Snyder’s powerful filmmaking energy standing. I will recommend it because it’s been long since we had a zombie movie that was dumb fun instead of trying to be something it will never be. Not great storytelling but still a great entertainer.
K- Score: 61%
STW: 15/30, D: 16/25, C: 5/8, E: 2/5, PVD: 12/12, A: 5/10, S: 6/10