I won’t pretend to be an expert on the Dead franchise because there have been so many movies in this lot that I even get them mixed up. Zack Snyder’s Netflix original Army of the Dead is yet another addition to this franchise which mixes up the trademark zombie flick with some elements from heist movies.
Synopsis: Scott Ward (Dave Bautista), a former mercenary who saved a ton of people during the first zombie infestation in Las Vegas, is tapped by casino owner Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada) to assemble a team to recover $200 million from one of the casinos on the Strip before the government nukes the entire city to get rid of all the zombies. For a fat paycheck of $50 million, Scott gets his team together, but certain complications arise along the way.
Army of the Dead is pretty much your typical blockbuster zombie film. There are a lot of gratifying gore, smarter zombies compared to previous monsters in this franchise, and a sense of danger with the very specific timeline given to Scott’s team.
There was plenty of action. What I liked about the film was even for the characters that will obviously not make it to the end of the movie, Snyder made sure that they got their moments to shine.
Of course, there were plenty of signature slow motion scenes given the Snyder trademark.
As an action hero, I appreciate Dave Bautista trying to follow in the footsteps of Dwayne Johnson. However, his acting chops still needs a bit of work. In terms of action, the guy is huge so even high powered artillery look look like toys when he wields them. Because he is so big, he is also a bit on the slow side, so the running scenes seem a bit awkward. Props to Batista for incorporating some of body slams and wresting moves in some of the scenes. Another disadvantage of hiring a huge guy as the leader? Zombies also look puny compared to him so there doesn’t seem to be an imminent threat for the most part.
There were some characters who really stood out for me. Tig Notaro, whom I only knew as the comedian who knew nothing about Hollywood A-listers, was a total badass as the helicopter pilot. No doubt she was the best character in the film.
Kudos to Notaro and Snyder because she was a late addition to the cast as she only stepped into the role that previously belonged to Chris D’Elia after he already shot and filmed all of his scenes before sexual misconduct allegations were hurled against him.
As a result, all of D’Elia’s scenes were reshot by Notaro, mostly alone and blended into the footage that had already been shot with the rest of the cast. Had I not known about this, I would have thought she filmed with the rest of the actors. Plus her character had the best lines. Even though she really wasn’t part of the fray when it came to the fighting, she was a real hero.
I also liked the dynamic between safecracker Dieter (Matthias Schweighöfer) and Venderohe (Omari Hardwick). Meanwhile, Guzman (Raul Castillo) proved to be real team player even though he only joined the group for the fun of it. All in all, it was perfectly rootable bunch, except for Scott’s daughter Kate (Ella Purnell) and her idiotic friend Geeta (Huma Qureshi).
It bears noting that the zombies in Army of the Dead were already faster and smarter. The script made sure to highlight that part so the franchise can adopt to current zombie trends in Hollywood and elsewhere. It also was not lost that Znyder left the door open for a sequel.
There was a nice set up for an underlying backstory but the film’s intent seemed to stray into delivering countless explosions, gunfights, and maiming. In the end, even after 2 1/2 hours, it felt like a run off the mill popcorn movie. Army of the Dead was well made but it wasn’t shocking, mind blowing or a game changer in the zombie genre.