Army Of The Dead Review - This Zack Snyder Zombie Flick Is A Fun Popcorn Entertainer
In 2004, Zack Snyder made his directorial debut with Dawn of the Dead, a remake of 1978 classic by George A. Romero. While not as critically well-received as the original the remake was entertaining to watch and became a box office success and now 17 years later Snyder returns to the genre with Army of the Dead, with an original story that is written by him as well as has him taking over the role of cinematographer.
Snyder has always been a mixed bag for me. His movies often have great action set pieces which are shot well and some funny and a bit cheesy jokes which when paired with a solid script have produced some movies that I have enjoyed watching like his adaption of the comic Watchmen and 300, but when there is no script we get movies like Sucker Punch and Batman V Super Man though the movie studio should bear some responsibility for the latter.
Army of the Dead follows a group of mercenaries led by Scott Ward played by Dave Bautista a retired veteran who is hired by a casino owner Tanaka played by Hiroyuki Sanada to go to the zombie-infested and quarantined city of Las Vegas and retrieve 200 million dollars that is locked away in his casino's vault, before the US government nukes the city, Ward while initially reluctant agrees to the job hoping that the pay would help him reconnect with his estranged daughter.
Zack Snyder’s issues during the production of his previous movie, The Justice League, are now public and it was during his hiatus that he came up with the idea for Army of the Dead and it is clear that the movie is his way of regaining momentum and making his movies the way he would want to, flaws and all. Thankfully it worked for the most part with this movie.
Army of the Dead is at its heart is a popcorn entertainer, a movie I was able to enjoy it has all the things I wanted from a Zombie movie made by Snyder. A lot of fun action scenes, funny jokes, cool zombies, gore, and the movie does not hold back on the blood and guts that are flung across the screen in some really well-executed action sequences.
The Team Ward assembles for this mission consists of some of his former allies and a few new faces, it is at this point that we are introduced to his daughter Kate Ward played by Ella Purnell who works as a volunteer at a WHO camp set up just outside the city limits along with her friend Geeta played by Huma Qureshi who are trying to help refugee children before the bombs drop.
The acting in the movie is well done, however, the standouts have been David Bautista, who manages to show his acting range in the few character-building scenes and does a good job playing the lead. The only other memorable characters are Omari Hardwick who plays Vanderohe a soldier/philosopher and has one of the best-written monologues in the movie along with Tig Notaro who plays the sarcastic helicopter pilot Marianne Peters.
The rest of the cast while good doesn’t really stand out and Huma Qureshi is barely in the movie and is more of a plot device than a character. The zombies and the city of New Vegas are what's very interesting while most of the zombie horde is mindless and driven by hunger a few among them termed Alphas are intelligent and are capable of organizing the others there is an interesting bit of dialogue by one of the characters, when the team enters the city for the first time, that the city is not a prison but a kingdom ruled by the zombies.
It easy to see Snyder was inspired by John Carpenters' 1981 movie Escape from New York in terms of world-building. This is also one of the biggest issues that I have with the movie, this interesting city ruled by the undead feels underutilized, there is an entire subplot dedicated to Huma Queishi’s character which could have been dropped for some of the zombie-related subplots that are only just hinted in the movie.
Army of the Dead also has a few tedious character-building moments but they are few and far between that they don’t take away from the overall experience and nowhere near as painful to watch as the ones in the recent Godzilla movies. It also could have been a shorter movie as there are a few scenes, if cut, that would not in any way be missed or hinder the plot progression.
Zack Snyder’s second venture into the Zombie Genre is a lot like his first outing - fun, engaging, and overall just as entertaining - the only difference the first kicked off his career, which seems to have jumpstarted passion for filmmaking.