Directed by: Zack Snyder
Written by: Zack Snyder (Story), Shay Hatten (Screenplay), Joby Harold (Screenplay)
Genre/s: Action / Horror / Sci-Fi / Thriller
Run Time: 2h 28min
Release Date: May 21st 2021
With the success of Zack Snyder’s long awaited cut of Justice League being released, Snyder fans were all waiting to see what else Zack could bring from the world of film, so when Army of the Dead finally had a trailer drop, it’s safe to say the film pretty much sold itself to the ever expanding Snyder fan base alone.
With the current times being as they are with Covid-19 still being present in our lives, effecting our previous rituals of swarming to the cinema’s to watch the latest films, Army of the Dead instead dropped digitally at homes across the globe on the popular streaming service, Netflix.
Fans seem divided once again though as there have been many mixed reviews about Snyder’s latest film, so here I am to join in and give you my opinion of the Zombie filled heist movie.
After a government transport gone wrong, unleashes a genetically engineered zombie outside the city of Las Vegas, it’s not long before the majority of the population is infected or killed with the remaining survivors evacuated as Las Vegas is walled off and turned into a quarantine zone, set to be nuked in order to eradicate the infection.
Former mercenary, Scott Ward (Dave Bautista) now lives just outside the borders, flipping burgers for a living, until he is approached by casino owner, Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada) and given an opportunity to set himself up with enough money to turn his life around, with just one heist. Scott just needs to put a team together to help him break into the quarantine zone, open a safe in the basement of a casino, and retrieve millions of dollars before flying out care free and richer than ever. Oh and they have 24 hours to do all of that before the city is nuked, so no pressure.
Scott accepts the mission, gathers a team of misfits and prepares to head into the zombie infested city. However, things go askew when he is reunited with his daughter, and plans change when she decides to tag along in order to find her friend that has gone missing.
The team consists of your usual stereotypes for any heist mission, which includes:
- The soldiers/shooters; Scott, Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick), Maria Cruz (Ana de la Reguera), Chambers (Samantha Win) and Mikey Guzman (Raúl Castillo),
- The Vault cracker who is enthusiastic about the vault design and not much else; Dieter (Matthias Schweighöfer)
- The coyote who knows the rules of where they’re going, and the only person who can get the team into the area; Lilly (Nora Arnezeder)
- The member chosen by the contractor who’s clearly not there for the same reason as the rest of the team and is most likely to betray them; Martin (Garret Dillahunt),
- The Pilot; Marianne Peters (Tig Notaro) and last but not least,
- The tag along with strong connections to one or more of the leads; Kate Ward (Ella Purnell)
Their ‘simple’ heist mission turns out to be a lot different to what they were expecting when they discover that not all of the zombies are your average reanimated deceased, and that there are in fact genetically engineered alpha zombies that rule the area, communicating and leading the others. The alpha even has a pet zombie tiger, because it wouldn’t be Vegas without a tiger, dead or alive…or undead.
Visually this film looks fantastic, with Snyder behind the camera free to do what he likes, it’s no surprise that the shots, angles and visual effects are brilliant. The best part of the visuals in my opinion comes from the practical effects and makeup for the alpha zombies. The Alpha Queen, portrayed by Athena Perample, looks fantastically creepy with Athena’s choreography accompanied by the makeup, turning her into a terrifying Queen of the dead. The eyes in particular stand out as the yellow and red certainly jump out of the screen and make you want to look away, but you somehow can’t stop staring & admiring the effects of the film.
With the film being set in the day, I feel like it takes a lot away from the Horror aspect of the genre, and leans more into the Action/Thriller side, especially since a prime focus of the film, as with many zombie films, is the shootouts, as we watch the humans mow down hordes of undead with pistols, machine guns, and sometimes some very well choreographed knife play to add a bit of close combat into the mix. The creative choices made in this film make it a fun experience, whilst the writing takes some of that excitement away in some areas.
There were moments in this film where I felt that we got less of a unique take on the genre, and more of a stereotypical zombie drama. I enjoyed Bautista’s character but at times I felt like he was held back with the usual case of somewhat lazy writing that made Scott Ward a drama filled mess. Reconnecting with his daughter wasn’t necessarily the start of the issue, despite the obvious trope that was going to be “Kate will wander off despite being told not to and Scott will have to save her”. It’s a very common plot point that pushes many stories into further dilemmas at a point when things should be ready to be resolved. However, my main issue was with the overused excuses from Scott as a character when faced with questions about why he left behind his daughter and his possible love interest.
“I left because looking at you reminds me of your mother” is such an overused and typical male response in films and other media, that is one of the worst and laziest excuses anyone could write for a character. I feel like Scott should have had a better reason for his lack of involvement in his daughters life. Perhaps even admitting to feeling like after what happened in the past made him feel like he couldn’t protect his daughter. That would have made more sense to me as a viewer. A similar lazy excuse is given when he is told that one of his closest allies admits that she had been waiting for him to make a move and start a relationship with her, to which Scott responds with something along the lines of “I thought I messed up any chance of that last time”. Again, this felt very lazy in the writing and something closer to him not feeling comfortable getting close to people after what happened with his wife, would have been more appropriate as it adds the personal touch for the viewer.
I just feel like the writers, Snyder included, focused too heavily on the fun zombie aspects of the film, forgetting to focus on the human aspect more in order to make this film feel like a real journey with true emotions behind it.
That is just my opinion though.
There were some excellent aspects to the writing however, that makes this film unique to other zombie films. For example, the different types of zombies which meant that there was an aspect of challenge for the humans, the rankings within the zombie world, which meant that there were weaker opponents that act like your usual slow zombies, to the genetically engineered alphas that were intelligent and lethal. Not to mention the aspects of the film that left the audience with questions and theories, such as the cyborg zombies and glowing blue zombie baby?
Snyder has confirmed that he would love to delve deeper into the Army of the Dead world with sequels, and I would like to have some of these theories about aliens, cyborgs etc. answered, because the characters don’t say a damn word about any of them. A zombie gets shot and is revealed to be a cyborg, but because the humans are in a busy life or death situation there’s absolutely nothing mentioned about it, which leaves the audience with more questions than answers, which can be good, but can also draw away from the film because you’re just sat thinking about that one unexplained aspect.
I enjoyed the film overall, but it could have certainly been better in regards to writing especially. I would love to see a sequel because the third and final act of the film was by far the most interesting section of the film, and left it all wide open for the sequel or sequels. Snyder’s visuals and the choice of cast shine through more than the writing and plot of the film, with the action sequences being the only real interesting moments of the film as a whole.
I wanted to enjoy this film and fall in love with a new possible franchise, but after this first installment I’m left hoping that any sequels and adaptations do something to improve the story as a whole, rather than continue with this level of quality.
I’d give the film 3 out of 5 stars for being a fun heist film with a brilliant cast of characters. The writing is what lets it down so much for me, and the lack of explanations for some of the factors that should excite the audience, but only leaves them wondering “what was the point”.