Now that the phenomena known as #releasethesnydercut has come and gone and both Warner Bros and Zack himself have explicitly confirmed that the Snyderverse is no more, it’s time to put the nail in the coffin. Army of the Dead is that nail, it’s time to move forward and let Zack do what he does best when studio interference doesn’t hinder his ability to create a story from script to screen. I’ll admit, I’m happy he’s moving on to work on different projects that don’t involve DC Comics characters, but there is a tiny bit of hope I think we’re all holding onto that Man of Steel 2 will get made with Henry Cavil back as Clark Kent. How much that percentage is all depends on the individual, but it’s there.
The zombie genre in many ways like the comic book genre is oversaturated with content with new movies and television series dropping every year. Majority of these projects don’t add any significant value to the genre but not Army of the Dead. Army of the Dead is Snyder’s best film since 2013’s Man of Steel. Snyder adds something new to a zombie film that gives the genre a face lift – the zombies actually think, they’re not mindless drones that only want to eat flesh. They move quicky as if they’re alive still and have actual development to them.
Army of the Dead also features something unique in the fact that the outbreak is self-contained to Las Vegas while the entire country knows about it. It’s also a heist movie but there being zombies doesn’t really give the heist itself a purpose, the zombie outbreak is used as a distraction – something for the group to deal with while also breaking into the uncrackable safe. The heist still could have happened if no zombie outbreak ever occurred. Of course, Snyder is no stranger to the zombie genre with his first feature being Dawn of the Dead. At least he has experience with creating a formidable zombie horde.
If Army of the Dead teaches one lesson and one lesson only, that lesson is, if you’re newlyweds, just pull over to the side of the road, all the blame can be placed on them. I get there needed to be a catalyst to set off the events in motion but this whole thing most definitely could have been avoided.
But because the newlyweds couldn’t help their animalistic instincts, there is $200 million sitting in a vault begging to be taken. Who’s going to take it you ask, Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada), that’s who, or at least he hires the team to and give them $50 million for their troubles (what a philanthropist). Bly’s true purpose for hiring Scott Ward (Dave Bautista) is the messiest aspect of Snyder’s script which he co-wrote with Shay Hatten and Joby Harold. Bly has an ulterior motive for sending a team into a zombie infested overrun city. It doesn’t land the way it was intended which leaves a gaping issue surrounding the villain’s motivations.
On Scott’s team is his daughter Kate (Ella Purnell) who is only there to rescue three women in the refugee camp that were let in the city by Coyote (Nora Arnezeder). Scott also recruits Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick), Maria Cruz (Ana de la Reguera), Dieter (Matthias Schweighöfer), Marianne Peters (Tig Notaro), Mikey Guzman (Raul Castillo) & Chambers (Samantha Win) with Martin (Garret Dillahunt) tagging along as Bly’s right-hand man. What works for Army of the Dead that isn’t expected to surrounds the characters and their relationships with one another. It’s the strongest aspect in Snyder’s script. Most of these characters have never met before but only a zombie outbreak can have them form lasting bonds until their inevitable deaths.
The team knows they are going to die – plain and simple, some even expect to not make it out. Death will either come by zombie bite or the nuke that the president is set to drop on Independence Day because it would be awesome (his words, paraphrased). The shelf-life on these characters make more of an impact than 2016’s Suicide Squad – at least here it’s easy to form a connection with the characters.
Army of the Dead isn’t winning any Academy Awards for best acting, not by a long shot but Dave Bautista is the heart and soul of this story. His relationship with his daughter is easily relatable minus the zombie threat and you can feel his pain even when he’s being the tough guy. That hard exterior softens with every scene and where you can sympathize with his choices. Besides Bautista, the relationship that steals every scene involves Dieter and Vanderohe. Their bond comes full circle in the 148-minute-long runtime from complete strangers to brothers-in-arms. Omari and Matthias’s chemistry radiates off the screen with how each character reacts toward one another. Dieter also serves the story as the comic relief, none of his comedic dialogue feels forced or overbearing to the mission and fits right in with his character.
It wouldn’t be a Zack Snyder film without his signature style and Snyderisms. His use of slow-motion is present but its toned way down compared to his 4-hour cut of Justice League or 300 or any movie he directs, really. Army of the Dead is visually a beautiful movie – he captures the essence with a grandiose cinematography and scale to each and every shot he frames. Serving as the cinematographer, Snyder is able to control all of this, making the movie he wanted to with no studio interference – thanks, Netflix. There’s also a Zombie tiger, what zombie is brave enough to go after a tiger is beyond me, but the tiger has the single best kill in the entire movie.
Army of the Dead is written by Zack Snyder, Shay Hatten & Joby Harold, directed by Zack Snyder is Rated R and has an 70% on Rotten Tomatoes. Army of the Dead was released on May 21, 2021 in the United States and has a runtime of 2 hours and 28 minutes. Army of the Dead can be streamed on Netflix. 3 out of 5.