A group of mercenaries must head into a quarantined, zombie-
infested Las Vegas to pull off a heist before the city is nuked.
Army of the Dead (2021)
Directed by Zack Snyder
Written by Zack Snyder, Shay Hatten, Joby Harold
Starring Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, Ana de la Reguera,
Omari Hardwick, Theo Rossi, Matthias Schweighofer,
Nora Arnezeder, Hiroyuki Sanada, Garret Dillahunt,
Tig Notaro, Raul Castillo, Huma Qureshi
Having revisited Zack Snyder's remake of Dawn of the Dead for the Filmgazm Podcast, I was cautiously optimistic that he'd pull something off with his latest entry in the zombie subgenre. Just saying the plot out loud raises eyebrows and not in a good way. With that said, if anyone would be brave enough to tackle it, Zack is your man.
The opening was promising enough with a newlywed couple figuratively and literally blowing it on their wedding night releasing a new kind of zombie. Even the opening credits had Snyder use Richard Cheese once again with a cover of "Viva Las Vegas", introducing us to some of the main characters, and setting the stage for the main set piece of the film. Much like his undead horde in Dawn, these are fast moving, fierce creatures but there's an added surprise in store for our intrepid band of hired hands tasked with taking $200 million dollars from a casino vault...what's that? Yeah, this is also a heist movie, too. I'm all for genre mashing as some of my favorites blend tropes and characters to create something new and interesting...for me, this is not one of those movies.
It's pretty apt that this flick takes place in Sin City because there is a lot of excess here. Too many characters (even for a heist movie), too many plot threads left dangling, too long of a run time, just too much. Dave Bautista tries to make his character, Scott Ward, well-rounded and relatable but it just doesn't work for me. He's ex-military who somehow finds himself behind a grill at a shitty diner (but later says he wants to have a food truck after mentioning how he hates what he does, make up your mind Scott!) when he's contacted to assemble his crew for the destined to fail heist at the casino behind zombie lines. You can see a lot of the heist angle coming a mile away and it just feels forced into the world that Snyder has populated with insane zombies that includes a fucking zombie tiger named Valentine.
What worked for me in this movie, just barely, is the zombies and even there Snyder drops the ball. Within the walls of Las Vegas, a society of undead has emerged with a King, Queen, and their subjects for lack of a better description. The gore and effects are great but they never really delve into some things they show like the fact that the King and Queen were fucking and conceived a baby! That's the weird shit we're here for, Zack, give us zombie babies and feudal zombie lords! I haven't double-checked but it's been spreading on the interwebs that aliens are actually responsible for the zombies citing the blue goo that shoots from the alphas.
Overall, this was hard to get through and was another example of letting Snyder indulge himself and the end product suffered. He is definitely earning his rep as a style over substance filmmaker for me. You're always gonna get something visually intriguing but with very little substance. If you enjoyed it, I am happy for you. I don't know when I will attempt to revisit this unless we get a 95 minute version that removes 90% of the slow-mo gun fights and explosions.
I think if Zack Snyder curbed it on the slo-mo, none of his films would eclipse two hours. Once again, we are treated to a fan-favorite director who has earned none of the fan acclaim he has received. I enjoyed the Snyder Cut but I agree that is incredibly self-indulgent, as are everyone one of his films, most of them not being worth the watch. I love Watchmen, and I enjoy 300 and Dawn of the Dead, but Sucker Punch and the DC stuff sucks something awful. Since this was a zombie film, I was hoping Snyder would be going back to his roots and giving us something creative and memorable. I'll admit that the zombie stuff was creative, though I don't know which way I lean on it. However, the heist stuff might as well have been written by an A.I. who marathoned the Ocean trilogy. It's so generic and predictable that it just about takes you out of the movie.
The only character who gets any development is Scott Ward (Bautista, who is great), a former mercenary turned burger flipper who is tasked by a mysterious Japanese businessman (Sanada, who is underused and never gets his comeuppance) to rob a casino in Vegas with a team. Only problem? Las Vegas has been ground zero for a zombie plague that has taken over the city and turned everyone, causing the government to wall the city off. They're gonna nuke it in three days, so Scott and his team have very little time to get the cash and get out. The zombies are smart, organized, and can feel emotions like love and hate. Personally, I think this defeats the purpose of having zombies. Might as well make them vampires if you're gonna do that. Every other character besides Scott and his daughter Kate (Purnell) seems to exist simply to die horrifically, which would be so much better if we cared even a little bit about who they were.
I won't say I had high hopes for Army of the Dead, but I wasn't expecting a bloated, two and a half hour long strokefest of slow-motion, heist clichés, and so many teased story threads that are never explored. But I'll give credit where it's due. The gore effects were fantastic, the soundtrack was interesting, and the story is fresh enough. All of these just about save the movie for me, but this could've been league better.
Fresh off the release of his cut of Justice League, Zack Snyder has unleashed his newest on Netflix. One where he has decided to return to the zombie subgenre and inject a healthy dose of fun. The former being what kickstarted his career and the latter a much-needed reprieve from his much too heavy handed, and tone, DC ventures. A set of films which made me pretty hesitant to check this new one out. Don’t get me wrong, I will gladly defend Snyder’s first three films. But unlike the oddly fervent fanbase, I was not into any of the films he did for DC. And his cut of the Justice League didn’t wow me. Nonetheless, the trailer and concept intrigued me, so I decided to give this a chance. Simply put, it’s better than his previous films. Still not all that great, though.
Snyder attempts something interesting here. He does his best to mesh a heist film plot within the zombie subgenre. Problem is, one is better than the other. The heist part is, unfortunately, the least interesting due to having to sit through the same old tropes and tricks. The zombie part, though, shows some serious signs of creativity. There’s the whole idea of there being an intelligent group of zombies who can strategize and organize. This break from the usual lore helps in creating some of the film’s more horrific moments and entertaining action scenes. I also appreciate the insane levels of gore and violence with the zombies involved. If only it didn’t feel like the heist part, and all the tropes associated with it, was taking most of the film’s focus. And, before I wrap things up, someone needs to wrangle Snyder on his runtimes. I don’t need a zombie film over two hours long.
While I will give credit to the fun tone and neat take on traditional zombie lore, this is still held back by a painfully generic heist plot. Snyder does finally show some improvement over his last couple of films. But, between the aforementioned plot and the bloated runtime, I’ll just go back to one of his early films.