SURVIVOR TAKES EVERYTHING IN THIS SPIRITLESS
(STILL FUN) ZOMBLIE FLICK
Film director Zack Snyder has had an interesting career in the film industry. While making his directorial debut with the zombie horror film Dawn of the Dead In 2004, Snyder quickly became a household name with his second film in 2006 300; an action history genre feature based on the events of the Battle of Thermopylae during the Persian Wars and based on the graphic novel of the same name by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley. From then on, Snyder directed several large and visually epic blockbuster comic book novel / superhero features, including 2009 Guardian, 2013 man of Steel, 2016 Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, as well as 2017 Justice League and the dubbed Director’s Cut 2021 Zack Snyder’s Justice League. In addition to these film projects, Snyder also led other projects such as 2010 Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole and 2011 sucker Punch; both were known for being “visual” films and had Snyder-style directing styles throughout. In addition, Snyder also produced and wrote the scripts for some of his feature films, as well as other films that followed on from previous projects (i.e. 300: Rise of a Kingdom and Wonder woman). Now, after all the praise he received from Zack Snyder’s Justice League 2021, Snyder (along with Netflix) is making a return to the director’s chair with the release of. back to its zombie horror roots Army of the Dead. Are these undead zombie ventures proving to be entertaining, or has the whole “zombie apocalypse” tale been beaten to “dead”?
When an unexpected accident occurs during a military transport in the Nevada wilderness, a hellish nightmare begins with the rise of another breed of zombie. These undead creatures are fast, organized, and difficult to kill. They quickly feed on the closest people they can find and spread a pandemic plague in the area. They have transformed themselves from the once flashy city of Las Vegas into their undead kingdom, with the government locking down the gambling “Sin City” and leaving it to those who work in quarantine camps on the outskirts. Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada) is the owner of Olympus Casino and has a special offer for those looking for luck; approaches ex-military man Scott Ward (Dave Bautista) and asks his services to recover a sizeable amount of money that was left in the casino’s vault. With only 96 hours to carry out the lucrative robbery before the government plans to drop a nuclear weapon on Las Vegas, Ward puts together a team for the mission, including the safe cracker Ludwig Dieter (Matthias Schweighofer), the mechanic Maris Cruz (Ana de la Reguera), soldier Venderohe (Omari Hardwick), trigger man Mikey Guzman (Raul Castillo) and pilot Marianne Peters (Tig Notaro) After the team has been put together, the tracker Lily (Nora Arnezeder) and Tanaka’s security officer Garret Dillahunt join the group, as added support for the heist mission as the team ventures into the lion’s den of the ruined, zombie-ravaged realm of Las Vegas. However, Ward’s estranged daughter, Kate (Ella Purnell), who seeks to save a family in the hot zone, joins the team, making the crew’s goal difficult as Ward and his companions navigate this new zombie kingdom. be watched from afar by his overseer and undead overlord.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Personally, I’m a fan of Zack Snyder films. Though I can honestly say I didn’t see it Dawn of the Dead (Snyder’s first film), as many of you know that I’m not a huge fan of horror films, I can happily say that I have the rest of his directing work in his career. Of course, I liked his version of Frank Millers 300 in his 2006 picture and was my first introduction to the director’s unique style of storytelling. Of course, I followed this movie with the 2009 Watchmen movie to be great too; I loved Snyder’s visual direction for the project and was definitely intrigued by all of the darker comic book narrative. Also, I remember everyone talking about the Watchmen series being one of the most “acclaimed” graphic novels of all time, so I’m definitely interested in seeing it. After that, Snyder’s foray into the superhero genre with the DCEU was somewhat mixed. Yes, personally I loved (and still do) his take on Superman in man of Steelbut I felt like the director was sort of “jumping with a gun” when he tried to do too much with it Batman v Superman: Dawn of justice by serving too many masters of the story threads (i.e. a continuation of man of Steel, an origin story for Batman, a gentle introduction to Wonder Woman, and the DCEU expansion). With the most recent premiere of his alternative cut to 2017 2017 Justice League (Zack Snyder’s Justice League), I was definitely surprised by Snyder’s efforts within the DCEU and I sincerely hope that WB will consider restoring his vision for the DCEU. All in all, I think Zack Snyder is a solid director who deserves a little more credit than he was given. Also, I forgot to mention that I really loved Snyders Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole. It was very stylish and a bit darker for a kid’s movie, but it was still a great movie…. Somehow wished that Snyder himself (or another director) would release another film in this potential franchise.
This brings me back to Army of the Dead, a 2021 zombie horror / action film and Zack Snyder’s latest film. After the whole WB “Will they, won’t they” publish his cut? Justice League, I remember hearing that Snyder was going to be a new movie and it would be about zombies. After that first report, I didn’t hear much about the project, especially since most of the hype surrounding Snyder’s name (on the internet) was about the upcoming release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League. That changed, however, when the movie trailer for Army of the Dead came online. It looked very interesting from the trailer alone. Of course, I’m not that interested in the whole “zombie” aspect as the market and overall appeal are overly saturated (more on that below), but I was definitely interested in seeing the film because of the robbery aspect, Snyder directed the film , and starring for Dave Bautista. Also, I found it pretty interesting that the film debuted on Netflix after WB, who was originally supposed to release the film, wasn’t that interested in the project and that Netflix bought the right and disturbing one for the feature. So, with the increased success of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, I intended to see it Army of the Dead on Netflix, even though my local theater showed the film on the streaming service a week before it was released. I decided to wait for Netflix a few weeks after the film was released because I was a little too busy with work and a couple of projects to get done. Now I finally had a chance to sit down one afternoon and Snyders Army of the Dead. And what did I think of that? Well, it’s pretty good, but not super grandiose. Even though I have problems with the film Army of the Dead is a pure mindless zombie film that is sometimes fun and sufficiently entertaining. It’s not the “all-to-end-all” of zombie films, nor is it Snyder’s best work, but it’s still worth a look.
As the last paragraph clearly shows, director Zack Snyder directed Army of the Dead and seems to be returning to its original cinematic roots. While the director has gotten used to playing the superhero variant lately (as mentioned earlier), Snyder’s first venture was the horror zombie grouping with the release of Dawn of the Dead 2004. So Snyder seems to be getting back to his “zombie roots”; Find Army of the Dead rather a further development of what he was able to achieve for the first time in his first directorial feature film. Snyder himself has always had a “good eye” for visual directions and cues, which made his latest film both unique and memorable. Snyder turns his attention back to the zombie horror genre, just ignoring the classic zombie apocalypse aspect as so many others have in the past, and decides to shake things up with his film. How? Well, for starters, it seems to Snyder’s idea of connecting the zombie narrative to a heist premise that is (in my opinion) quite different and something I wouldn’t expect, as ordinary zombie movies are about fright to flee and run away place to place or lame side stories from the survivors. Moreover, based on that idea of the robbery, setting the film’s main location in the city of Las Vegas was really different, and using the heist format in that context was pretty nice. Seeing zombies disguised as Elvis impersonators or even an undead zombie tige (wow … didn’t see that coming). There were a couple of other narrative beats and scenarios that also differed, which definitely added to the interesting taste Snyder got when approaching such a project. I liked the idea that zombies had a leader and were smarter; with a more aggressive tone and kept his undead henchmen subject to him, giving the impression that the zombies themselves are a bit more organized rather than running amok across the country. I know this may sound like just a fictional gimmick, but it was enough for me to get interested in the movie’s premise.
Personally, Snyder turns his earlier experience with action sequences and climate points from Army of the Dead into a great explosive third act. There are a few good action scenes here and there throughout the film, but the real “highlight” of the film comes during the film’s climate point, the “Balls to the Wall” going crazy with blazing guns and zombies killing it while you lengthen a bit at times, was definitely a good treat. Also, I liked how Snyder got his more distinctive treatment of using the movie’s “R-rating” by giving the movie that bloody force stretch with the zombies and how they attack humans. Yeah, it was all a bit pointless at times, but Snyder nuanced the whole zombie feel quite a bit and piqued my interest, which was probably why I felt I liked it a little more than some of the others in this movie have ascribed. All of this makes for a completely different and entertaining film. I’m not one who normally gets a lot of interest in zombie stories, especially since the market is a bit saturated (more on that below), but I felt like Snyder did and did something unique with the premise Army of the Dead have a bit more creative life than the common post-apocalypse undead.
I would say that in his presentation Army of the Dead is one of the better releases from Netflix and it definitely has that big Hollywood studio feel from start to finish … and that’s a good thing. With a moderate production budget (roughly $ 70 to 90 million … give or take), Snyder and his team were clever enough to use their budget properly; The result is a movie that doesn’t look cheap (i.e., made for a dime) and feels like a summer blockbuster venture, which I think Snyder was aiming for with this project. Portraying Las Vegas as a ruined and desolate place full of undead zombies was pretty interesting to see, and the backdrop and aesthetics of the film made it believable in my opinion. Hence the “behind the scenes team” of the film, consisting of Julie Berghoff (production design), Sophie Neudorfer (set decoration), Stephanie Portnoy Porter (costume designer) and the entire art direction team for the effort to make this film a reality allow . Also, I have to mention that the makeup and hair team on the movie (too many to name but the entire team) were fantastic at bringing the various zombie beings to life in very detailed / intricate ways . Also, I have to mention that some of Snyder’s cinematographic work, even with smooth camera movements / angles, is pretty good to get the “cinematic” quality he is known for in his films. Finally, the soundtrack, composed by Thomas Holkenborg (aka Junkie XL), who previously worked with Snyder, provides a solid musical composition Army of the Dead and underpins the film with many bombastic tones and gentle moments for character dialogues. I really love his job. I also liked how the film used Las Vegas-style songs a few times in certain scenes, which (again) added a different twist to the mix.
Unfortunately there are a couple of issues with that Army of the Dead not overcome and pull the feature down a bit to achieve cinematic zombie fame. Perhaps the biggest critic is what many would expect from a zombie-style film…. his writing. Yes, the script design / handling in the film is pretty flat and sometimes unimaginative; through the movements of what many would expect to see in an apocalyptic zombie setting. Of course, the whole point of view of “Heist” and “Vault Infiltration” is quite unique and different (as I mentioned above), but the rest of the movie plays out very predictably (and almost formulaic). Basically, if you’ve seen a zombie horror / action movie or even a robbery movie…. you probably know how Army of the Dead is played out. So apart from the initial setup of the film in its world building, much of the film is pretty straightforward with little twists and turns…. well, except maybe one or two and that’s it. This is also tied to the idea of easy lazy writing, with the film scripted by Snyder himself as well as Shay Hatten and Joby Harold. While the main narrative story is pretty straightforward (if still not entirely new or refreshing), the script tries to develop some of its characters; Unpacking a lot of backstory character problems that are interesting but never properly worked out; resulting in a missed opportunity for his characters (more on this below).
Additionally, Army of the Dead is a bit one-sided both in terms of running time and overall tone for the film. First, the movie is 148 minutes (two hours and twenty-eight minutes) and it really feels that long when you watch the movie. As many know from his earlier work, Snyder is known for creating elongated feature films that sometimes strain what is actually necessary Army of the Dead is no exception to his previous endeavors; feels too long and a bit boring to warrant a nearly two and a half hour movie. Personally, I think the film could easily have been cut a good half an hour or forty minutes and still probably got a solid presentation without sacrificing much. Granted, there are a lot of moving parts and characters that need to be fully investigated, but that doesn’t seem to be going right, with characters (as I mentioned above) falling short and / or being caricatures beyond their initial heist configuration are thinly outlined or personas. As for the tone, Snyder kept his face more and more serious, almost brooding (see Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice). Army of the dead, however, is quirky when sometimes it tries to be really serious about its undead situation, but sometimes it tries to be lighthearted with some of its character-based style moments. not how Zombie land and its 2019 sequel, which strikes a good balance between zombie action and slippery comedy scare, Snyder struggles to deal with those two aspects and creates a kind of unbalanced feeling in the tone of the film and it’s pretty hard to juggle with .
The occupation Army of the Dead is also a kind of mixed bag as some are good and others are just plain forgetful. It’s not worth trying from the cast and writing to add a new layer to these respective characters in the story. That being said, the characters themselves are mostly thinly sketched and some of the acting talents are rather broad and boring. That’s not to say that acting is pathetic or awful … just that they can’t make the characters that memorable. Perhaps who serves best (and who certainly carries the film) is former wrestler / now actor Dave Bautista. Known for his roles as Drax in the MCU films (Guardian of the Galaxy, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. II, and Avengers: Infinity War) as well as Hotel Artemis and Stuber, With his acting career, Bautista has certainly become a big ticket star and is more of a household name among causal moviegoers. Much like other wrestlers who have become actors (e.g. Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson “and John Cena), Bautista has been delegated to more comedic roles. So it’s pretty clear why Bautista wants to star in Army of the Dead and I have to say that he does a good job in the role. While Bautista has done more comedic interjections with him in previous projects, he certainly seems “at home” in his character of Scott Ward, who is more of a stoic action captain with a tragic backstory. There’s definitely a guts to Ward throughout the movie, and Bautista seems to be aware of that; play up the pain he is suffering and the situation he is dealing with. Also, Bautista handles the movie’s action sequences quite well. All in all, while it may not be the most memorable of his career, I think that Bautista was great as Scott Ward and definitely does well in the lead role and also has on-screen presence for much of the feature film.
Behind Bautista there are several supporting players who make up Ward’s Heist team who have more screen time than others and / or are part of Ward’s storyline. The latter is given to actress Ella Purnell (Wildlike and Miss Peregrine’s home for special children) who plays Kate Ward, Scott’s estranged daughter. While Purnell is okay in the role (i.e. not bad, but not very memorable either), she gets along with Bautista in the film and can definitely handle her own in the film. There’s just something missing that Purnell can’t get the character to achieve that particular “X” factor. The former is given to actor Omari Hardwick (power and Super), who plays the character of Vanderohe. Like Purnell, Hardwick is good in the role and gets a lot more screen time, but the character is just another team member in the Raid Tropics as the more seasoned soldier like Ward is. While Hardwick is a good actor, his character is only mediocre, which is both okay and a little disappointing as he could have had more. The same goes for the actress Nora Arnezeder (The words and Safe house) who plays the coyote smuggler Lily. She definitely has a lot of screen time and Arnezeder does a decent job in the role, but I got a feeling the script could have done more for the character’s development than a general one.
While these minor characters may be “okay-ish” in the film, I have to say that the character of Marianne Peters plays a memorable role, especially given the circumstances surrounding Peters development / acting. How? Well, for those of you who don’t know, Peters, the film’s serpentine “hard-as-a-nail” pilot, was originally played by actor Chris D’Elia (Undated and Half the magic), but was cut from the final version of the film due to sexual misconduct on set. D’Elia was then taken on by the actress Tig Notaro (A Mississippi and Immediate family) which (in my opinion) seems like a better choice. Granted, a lot of the Notaro parts were done with green screen when the filmmaker put them in the feature film in post production, but I felt like Notaro makes the character itself memorable, especially in the situation where both she and the movie were placed under with the character.
Whoever surprises in the role is actually the two main zombies in the film (aka Zeus and the Queen), who are the alleged leaders of the zombies that live in Las Vegas. True, there isn’t a lot of character development in their roles or that much spoken dialogue (other than grunts and screeches), but I have to say that Snyder does a good job of making these zombie leaders both memorable in the movie and a little more interesting than just the common undead. I also have to stuntman / actor Richard Cetrone (Captain America: Civil War and Wonder woman) and stunt woman / actress Athena Perample (you and WandaVision) for their depictions of Zeus and the Queen.
The rest of Ward’s team, including actor Matthias Schweighöfer (You are wanted and Joy of fatherhood) as Ludwig Dieter, actor Raul Castillo (Ghost band and Wrath of man) as Mikey Guzman, actress Huma Qureshi (Lelia and maharani) as Getta, actor Garret Dillahunt (Growing hope and No country for old men), fill in the rest of the supporting cast, while actor Theo Rossi (Sons of anarchy and When the branch breaks) as shabby security guard Burt Cummings and actor Hiroyuki Sanada (The wolverine and Mortal Kombat) as business tycoon Bly Tanka round off the rest of the little supporting actors.
Again, none of them give a particularly bad performance on screen, acknowledging that the movie’s script tried to give them their own goofy quirks / amusing personalities. However, none of them really stand out, with most (as you’d expect from a horror movie and zombie flick) being mostly cannons for the feature and nothing more. Perhaps it would have been beneficial for the story (as a whole) to eliminate one or two of these characters by leaving a little more room for other characters to develop. The downside of this criticism is that I really didn’t expect these characters to have fully developed or rounded character development, especially on a zombie apocalypse project. That being said, I wanted to see more, especially with the bloated running time of the film.
Its survivor takes it all as a team is assembled to carry out a robbery in the zombie-filled city that was once Las Vegas in the movie Army of the Dead. Director Zack Snyder’s latest film mixes the classic tropes of a heist narrative and mixes with the post-apocalyptic zombie premise into something that is quite unique and strangely entertaining. While the feature struggles a few times to balance these two ideals, as well as having a bloated runtime, tonal issues, and several boring supporting characters, the film still manages to find fun with its interesting premise (as mentioned) as well as Snyder’s directing, Concept ideas, an explosive third act and a strong performance by Bautista in the lead role. Personally, I liked this film. Like I said, I’m not that much of a fan of zombie movies, but this one definitely felt a little different (in some areas) and kept my interest. So my recommendation for this is a sold “recommended”, especially for those looking for a zombie distraction or something of value to watch on Netflix. There has been talk of doing two prequel spin-offs, one of which is a film called Army of thieves and an animated series entitled Army of the Dead: Las Vegas are expected to be released on Netflix (release date TBA). It will be interesting for me to see where these two projects will lead the established film world. In the end, though not perfect, Army of the Dead still manages to have plenty of punch through his undead heist adventure, with Snyder delivering a pointless (but still entertaining) zombie flick.
3.7 out of 5 (recommended)
Published on: May 14, 2021
Reviewed on: June 21, 2021
Army of the Dead is 148 minutes long and is rated R for heavy bloody violence, blood and language, some sexual content, and brief nudity / graphic nudity.