Zack Snyder’s latest film, Army of the Dead, made its streaming debut on Netflix on May 21, 2021. I watched the over two-hour film and I have some thoughts. That means you fandom fans get treated to my review of the film!
Warning: Mild Spoilers are Included in This Review!
If you break down the film to its core, it is a zombie film centered around a heist. It is easy to expect your typical popcorn film with jokes, action, and gore. You do get all three but in varying degrees.
We then look to the story to build on the foundation. An envoy is transporting something significant to what is alluded to as Area 54. A celebration bj in a moving car results in a crash that causes the release of “something significant”- A Zombie. Yes, a blowjob is a catalyst for the events of the film.
The Very Buff Zombie finds his way to Las Vegas. First on his itinerary: bite and infect topless showgirls! The half-nude zombies prove to be useful, as most of the city is quickly turned into brain-eating monsters. The government decides to build a wall around the city. If you make it out, great, if you don’t…well too bad.
Dave Bautista’s character was one of the ones that made it out. He works at a burger joint flipping patties. Until one day Hiroyuki Sanada comes in with an order but it’s not for burgers. Round up a crew of your choosing, including a helicopter pilot and a safecracker. Go to the bottom of a specific hotel where the vault is, crack it open and you’ll find 200 Million Dollars. You get 50 and I get 150. “Easy peezy Japanese-y.” an actual line in the movie. Bautista rounds up a crew and offers them different amounts of money. Everyone agrees because of money. Hiroyuki Sanada includes one of his own staff on the team, which is suspicious to everyone. Then off our movie goes!
Again, I want to preface this review by saying that the film is a rather simple, paint by numbers action flick. The motley crew is filled with characters you will like, love, and hope they die a painful death. We know that the mission isn’t going to be simple and that “unforeseeable” events will cause the plans to change and people to die. The twist on what the real mission is will be obvious but you know, in the end, the twist will straighten itself out.
And, if I judge this film solely on being a typical heist film then…it succeeded and it was ok. However, my biggest issue with Army of the Dead is the part of the film that is supposed to be focusing on zombies.
We spend very little time with the zombies and they are the most interesting and unexpected part of the movie! These zombies are interesting! I don’t just mean the zombie tiger and zombie horse. Tiger King’s nemesis, Carol Baskin, helped with the creation of the zombie tiger. Irony? Army of the Dead has your typical mindless undead (shamblers), but then we have Alphas. Alphas can think for themselves, they can communicate, and express emotions. The Alphas have a King and Queen that are capable of understanding or at least remember English. Spoiler: The King and Queen engage in coitus because the Queen is pregnant! Sadly, we never learn more about the baby, or how Alphas were able to create their own peaceful society, or how the zombies even came to be!
There is a subplot in the film that mirrors what the United States did by putting immigrants in cages. Though timely and important, is only used to serve as a plot device, not to take a political stance. This subplot often moves us away from the zombies. If you didn’t get your zombie questions answered, you definitely don’t get any resolution with the subplot either.
If you are expecting a satisfying ending, you are going to have to wait for Army of the Dead 2. Army of the Dead had every opportunity to create an amazing standalone film. In true Snyder form, he plans on giving you everything you want in a sequel. Even if that sequel is not studio guaranteed. Though the writer-director claims the sequel is “insane.” If this particular movie has taught us anything is that things DO NOT always go according to plan.
I don’t hate this film but I’m disappointed in it. Everything is purposely under-developed and that isn’t fair to movie watchers. Army of the Dead had the potential to reinvigorate the genre and change how we see the undead. Instead, it spends its time introducing us to ideas that may never see fruition.
I saw a video where Zack Snyder reacts to video games that feature zombies. That gave me an idea: Army of the Dead should have been a better video game. That would have provided Snyder more opportunity to expand on his interesting universe. We could get a resolution for certain characters, answers to our questions, and even give the subplot a real purpose.
Just like the blowjob from the opening scene, Army of the Dead falls short of satisfaction. It hinges too much on the promise of a sequel and the film suffers for it.
I give Army of the Dead a C-
I enjoyed the paint-by-numbers heist aspect of the film. I loved every scene with the Alphas and wanted more of it! Tig Notaro is a scene-stealer! But, as a standalone film, it has one zombie leg to stand on…and it is starting to rot. I truly hope it does get the sequel, so Snyder can put his money where his mouth is.
That’s my review of the film but what did you think? Give us your review in the comments and online.