Writer-director Zack Snyder returns to the world of the undead with this tale about a group of mercenaries attempting a heist in Las Vegas during a zombie outbreak. Army of the Dead’s biggest problem is definitely the script, writes Daniel Rutledge – mostly garbage, and mostly not in the enjoyable kind of way.
What an opportunity this was. Zack Snyder freed from the shackles of the DC Extended Universe, doing a zombie movie based on an idea he came up with nearly 20 years ago when he was doing another zombie movie as his first-ever feature. Finally, he gets to drop all that weirdly dark, heavy stuff about grim-faced super men and women saving the universe. Now he can just kick back with a simple popcorn movie about undead brains getting blown out, right?
Sure, the apocalypse is kicked off in the opening scene due to a blowjob gone wrong, then we’re treated to an amazing opening credit sequence, but this is nowhere near as fun as it should be. It’s generally a bit of a drag that gets laughably bad many times. But there definitely is some fun. Most of the action sequences are entertaining enough, albeit marred with some average CGI. A zombie getting squished between two concrete slabs is a really lovely moment, while a baddie gets slowly mauled by a zombified tiger at another point, climaxing with a fantastic bit of head gore. Story-wise, this goes for the not previously unseen idea of intelligent zombies forming their own society, which is interesting enough despite these ones dancing around like they’re in Cats.
Unfortunately, there are major tonal missteps that really foul things up. No one’s going to care about the serious emotional bollocks inserted throughout this thing, but at least those scenes allow for toilet breaks during the overblown 148-minute runtime. Dave Bautista has developed into a great actor and he is great in this, but he can’t magically turn chicken shit into chicken salad. There’s also a whole bunch of clumsy nods to Aliens for some reason.
In his role as director of photography, Snyder pushes things to extremes. He knocks it out of the park with the music video-style opening credits and while after that there’s nothing as epic as some of the compositions he’s achieved in his comic book adaptations, the post-apocalyptic Las Vegas setting generally looks great. However, a shallow depth of field is applied to almost every single frame, which gives it all a distractingly artificial look. I found that more interesting than annoying, but I’d understand if it pisses some viewers off.
Sign up for Flicks updates
The biggest problem is definitely the script. It’s mostly garbage, and mostly not in the enjoyable kind of way. Several conversations could’ve been edited out of the final cut as they really add nothing—in fact, they take away from the tension of the film’s nuclear bomb countdown. There are several time checks on how long everyone has before they get blown to smithereens, but there are several more examples of them chilling out and chatting instead of getting their bloody work done.
Hilariously, a crucial character is apparently forgotten at the end. I think they die? The film doesn’t bother to show us—which in a stupid zombie movie you might not care too much about, but this is a film with plenty of crying and attempted sincerity in it. I wish all that shit was cut out and some of it replaced with more enjoyable splatter, making it all deliver on the promise of those awesome opening scenes. Oh well.