Review: Zack Snyder’s ‘Army of the Dead’ is a Gory Zombie Gala and Nothing More

Was that a zombie in a goddamn cape?

The patchwork team. Via Netflix.

The latest addition to the Zombieverse, Army of the Dead, was directed by Zack Snyder (Justice League) and stars Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy), Omar Hardwick (Power), Hiroyuki Sanada (Mortal Kombat), Tig Notaro among others, who form an international slate of cast alongside Huma Qureshi (Indian), Ella Purnell (British), Matthias Schweighöfer (German), Ana de la Reguera (Mexican) and Nora Arnezeder (French). Army of the Dead begins with the transportation of an unknown cargo by a convoy of four military vehicles referred to as the four horsemen. During a moment of ecstasy, a newlywed couple crashes into the convoy, and the package escapes to reveal a well-built creature, a zombie. He bites everyone in his path, sets his eyes on Las Vegas and in the blink of an eye, the city turns into a Zombie land. In a series of exhilarating opening credits scenes, Las Vegas is now contained with a wall of shipping containers securing the outside world from the undead. 

Dave Bautista in Army of the Dead
Image via Netflix

As the war between mankind and zombies rages on, Scott Ward (Dave Bautista), a man who earned a medal of honour for his bravery during the Zombiefest but now flips burgers for a living, is approached by Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada), a millionaire. Tanaka proposes a life changing opportunity and tells him to gather a team together for a heist worth 200 million dollars, with 50 million dollars going to Ward’s team. Ward agrees and puts together a team crazy enough to pull a heist in the middle of zombie infested Las Vegas. They include his buddies; Vanderohe and Maria Cruz (Omari Hardwick and Ana de La Reguera); a pilot, Marianne Peters (Tig Notaro, who digitally replaced Chris D’Elia); zombie youtuber, Guzman (Raùl Castillo) with his badass friend, Chambers (Samantha Win) and the key to the whole heist, German safecracker, Ludwig Dieter (Matthias Schweighöfer). But like many heists, there’s always a hitch. In light of this, some other people join the team including Scott’s estranged daughter, Kate (Ella Purnell) who ventures into the undead land to save her friend. With this patched team, the journey begins. And the 2hr 28min movie goes on to be all about flesh eating zombies, humans being humans and the team’s race against time before the US government launches a nuke that will turn the Zombie City into barbecue land.

In Army of the Dead, Snyder introduces a new style and narrative to zombie nature, one that is absent in the other Zombie movies we are all familiar with. Within Las Vegas barricades, there is a chain of command and zombie hierarchy which is divided into two; the brain dead Shamblers which are the slow and dull zombies and the smart alphas, who have a king and pregnant queen. Yes, a pregnant Zombie. The opening scene of the movie is captivating, Snyder’s slow motion style,employed to depict the zombie mayhem in Las Vegas, accompanied by Elvis Presley’s Viva Las Vegas (covered by Richard Cheese & Allison Crowe), is enough to draw viewers into the bloodfest. Zack Snyder’s affinity for utilizing visually striking images (like the zombie tiger) and style, to lure viewers in, is something to boast of in Army of the Dead. The not so lucky Elvis Presley personate, the half-clad showgirls, the unlucky man who wins at the casino whose blessing is turned into a curse among others, all serve as Snyder’s plan to give the movie a gorgeous visual while using a wild Las Vegas setting as a backdrop. 

All hail King Zeus .
Image via Netflix

The movie delivers satisfying action sequences and for those that love gory horror thrillers or zombie movies, Snyder drops just the right amount in Army of the Dead. The zombie action thriller also employs the use of symbolism and allegorical allure to create an artistic value to the movie. Bly referred to the two target towers as “Sodom” and “Gomorrah”, the sin cities in the bible. Ironically, Las Vegas’ is also popularly known as ‘sin city’ and one could only connote that where else should the undead make their kingdom if not the city of sinners. The military convoy referred to as the four horsemen is also metaphorical to the carnage inflicted on Las Vegas as the horsemen symbolize war, famine, pestilence and death, each of which is evident in the city of the dead, Las Vegas. Moreover, the residence of our zombie king and queen bears the name Olympus which is commonly known to be the home of the gods— a place which can only be suitable for an alpha zombie, who plans to raise a child.

The action packed zombie heist thriller presents a brilliant idea and has its good part— a beguiling opening scene, a variety of beautiful background scores, the fight scenes and the Computer Generated Images (CGI) used— but the story drops its duende along the way.  Zack Snyder is one of those filmmakers that pays close attention to details but he leaves so many plot holes in what should be his reintroduction back to the Zombieverse after his debut, Dawn of the Dead. For zombies which are smart enough to use the elevator and an alpha who knows it is only right to protect his forehead with a shield, why is there such an easy doorway between the land of the undead and the living? The alpha zombie boring tactic of keeping people alive before he turns them is just a means of making the plot unnecessarily long. It’s more reasonable if he keeps them for lunch rather than the inevitable end of later turning them into alphas. The most  puzzling question the movie poses is how plausible it is for one character to carry the alpha zombie bite mark for a really long time whereas the people the alpha bit in the beginning of the movie turned  almost immediately. I guess they forgot about the timing or there is still more to be explained about the science in a sequel. 

Image via Netflix

With not so much character development, each of the actors did great in the little role given. Bautista with the muscle, Omar Hardwick brings back ‘Ghost’ vibe but with so little to do, Samantha Win almost steals the show with her crazy action flick and then there is Matthias who screams like a girl.  For a movie that aims to surpass the previous movies in the Zombieverse with its weird yet unique zombie factors, sadly, it fails. The likes of Pitt’s World War Z, South Korean’s Train to Busan and 2018 Overlord, boast more in-depth stories that keep viewers on the edge of their seat. Sadly for Snyder’s novelty— beside the sensational idea of a heist in a Zombie ‘Sin’ City, the movie’s visual montage and the not so touching emotional moment between father and daughter— there is nothing spectacular to see in Army of the Dead.

Rating: 6/10

Side Musings 

  • Whatever you do, always take the undead seriously. The army of the dead hates silly love confessions when they are still very much agile to go hunting.
  • The offering to the King of Zombies as a rite of passage into their kingdom. Who said Zombies can’t have their own culture?😅
  • The German safecracker Dieter, a hero among men.
  • Two prequels have been confirmed; an anime and an already completed live-action movie, “Army of Thieves”, starring Matthias Schweighöfer’s Dieter as a safecracker in what should be another international exhibition, slated to be released later this year. A franchise is born!

Army of the Dead is currently streaming on Netflix.

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