From the visionary mind of Zach Snyder comes Army of the Dead, a post-apocalyptic heist thriller where a group of mercenaries venture into Las Vegas to pull off a daring heist. Only problem is, the city has been completely overrun by hungry, hungry zombies!
Zack Snyder goes all-out when it comes to creating this film, delving deep into the world, its characters and layering on some trademark stylistic elements that he traditionally loves to play around with. The outline is very simple – mercenaries are trying to break into a safe in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. That’s all good, but it’s the little pockets of depth that he injects into the film that make all the difference. There are a number of questions and hints to a bigger picture that, if you have a keen eye, set up bigger things in the franchise’s future. The zombies are explored as characters and end up being much more than just mindless bodies that are there to be cut down. All of these things, and more, may be considered as minor additions, but they blend together to enhance the scope of the film and make it more engaging.
Even some of Snyder’s stylistic elements enhance the movie in their own way. He loves a lengthy title sequence and this is no exception. The title sequence is some of the craziest content of the entire film and it’s pulled off very well. I’d imagine it would throw off some audiences, but it accurately sets the tone for what’s about to come. That tone is one that’s comfortably over-the-top. It’s a little bit ridiculous, briefly serious and does have a light touch of comedy. Evidently, the tone jumps around a little, especially when it tries to explore uninteresting character relationships, but it all evokes this sense of mindless fun.
When it comes to the actual core narrative, it’s quite good. It’s not the most elegantly written film, but it does subvert expectations with some of the little twists and turns the narrative takes. It goes deeper into trying to set up this world as something original than I thought it would. Overall it’s a pretty fun ride, the first act moves at a quick pace and gradually builds tension. The second acts has a good amount of action to keep things flowing, but does take a couple of breaks for uninteresting character development. There’s a subplot involving Ella Purnell’s character that is uninteresting from the get-go and runs through the entire film. It just slows down the pacing and would have been a better film without this additional element. Other than that storyline, everything else works for the fun nature of the narrative it’s telling.
Visually, I’d say the movie is looks great. The blend of practical and visual effects is handled really well to where no effects stick out as obviously fake. The vibrant Vegas-esque colour palette brings a unique touch to what would otherwise be another bleak zombie flick filled with grey hues. Interestingly, Zack Snyder himself is the cinematographer on the project – clearly giving him the freedom to fully apply his unique styling to every second, and it pays off.
It promises to be action packed and it delivers on that front. There’s a few slower, more tense action sequences, and then there’s the more high octane moments that heighten the thrills. In other words, if you’re going into this film looking for some solid action – you’re going to get it.
Performance-wise, the ensemble cast is pretty good, despite no-one being incredible. Dave Bautista exhibits leading man material and fits his character nicely – delivering his lines well and hitting home runs in terms of contributing to the action sequences. Omari Hardwick also shines as he contributes to a number of comedic moments while also dishing out some satisfying zombie kills. Late addition Tig Notaro is on the outskirts for much of the film, but her comedic presence is certainly felt. There are definitely a number of clichés when looking at the writing of the characters, but none that really take you out of the film. Garret Dillahunt plays the most ‘cut and paste’ character in the movie, but even he just serves his purpose without being too distracting in the process.
In the end, Army of the Dead is about what you’d expect from a Zack Snyder zombie flick, with some neat surprises along the way. It embraces the fun, silly nature and doesn’t take itself too seriously – just serious enough to set up a world in which there could be more stories to tell. The narrative is solid, action is satisfying and visuals are on point. If you’re looking to check out something easy that you can sit back and watch without needing to follow every minor detail, this is the Netflix entertainment for you.