When it comes to notable filmmakers few tend to have the notoriety then that of Zack Snyder. Snyder has created an array of films over the years, most of them centering on comic books, and whether you like or dislike his work there is denying that Zack’s work gets attention. Yet before uniting the league and leading Spartans into battle, Zack was known for bringing the dead back to life in Dawn of the Dead. The 2004 horror film was a remake to the 1978 zombie film by George A. Romero and brought a new spin to the gruesome classic. Now Snyder has jumped back into this sub-genre with the new film Army of the Dead.
The story centers on mercenary Scott Ward (Dave Bautista), who leads a group of experts into a desolate Las Vegas casino to pull off a major heist; but that is easier said than done when the legions of the dead are than what the group expected. The movie has had a long stay in development hell as it was originally slated to be released in 2007. It was not until 2019 where Netflix required the rights to the movie and hired Snyder to direct the movie. Now the film has made it to both homes and theaters and after surviving this zombie apocalypse I must say that Army of the Dead is a standout film in the zombie genre.
The world of Army of the Dead is one filled with thrills and intrigue. The movie takes no time to get into its main point as the story was straightforward in its structure. Along with getting right into the thick of things, the plot also established an interesting world that has gotten passed a zombie uprising. While the story does not dwell on its setting, it was presented in a way that makes it easy to comprehend. Along the unique setting was interesting concepts such as blending elements of a heist film and creating a hierarchy for zombies. While this was nothing groundbreaking the zombie hierarchy was a nice touch and established the right stakes for the plot. However, despite these compelling ideas, it felt like these concepts could only go so far as things come to a standstill after the group enters the casino. Fortunately, the story makes up for it with an exciting final act which does enough to bring everything to a fitting conclusion.
Another benefit to the movie was its cast and the importance of characterization. The cast was certainly a versatile group of characters, though some members were stronger than others. The most prominent character was Scott Ward as Bautista’s performance brought the right number of layers to the troubled mercenary. This sense of character was also prevalent in others such as Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick), Ludwig Dieter (Matthias Schweighofer) and Lily (Nora Arnezeder). Vanderohe and Ludwig were particularly notable as their chemistry made the two unlikely allies into a captivating duo. Other characters such as Kate Ward (Ella Purnell) and Martin (Garrett Dillahunt) were fine, but they were a bit inconsistent in their development. Yet the biggest surprise to this ensemble was the villainous zombies- particularly the Alpha known as Zeus (Richard Cetrone). Rather than just being a mindless killer, there was an understanding in the monster’s motivation which (while a bit eccentric) was change of pace for movie like Army of the Dead.
When it came to its horror, Army of the Dead was a bit tame. While the movie had a gritty atmosphere, it relied more on the action oppose to being a fright fest. Other elements like the cinematography and the music by Tom Hokenborg were good but there was a bit off-putting when it came to capturing the movie’s horror. Even the gore was subtle in nature though it had its moments, and it was effective thanks to blend of digital and practical effects. In the manner of action, the movie was impressive. The action scenes featured a good blend of keen choreography with outrageous violence and this element was fitting for both the movie and zombie films in general.
Army of the Dead is a movie worthy of Zack Snyder’s repertoire. While it could be excessive in its delivery and a little inconsistent with its story and characters, the movie also had a keen understanding of world building and characterization that made it more than a typical action flick. Although that is no detriment to action as it more than delivered despite contrasting with the film’s horror. Through thrills and style, Army of the Dead brings something different to the zombie genre while being an exciting cinematic experience; and in this Film Adventurer’s opinion that combination is never a bad thing.