Who is not talking about Zack Snyder nowadays? Some people cannot get enough of his work. Others cannot sit through another one of his works. What a divisive filmmaker? Some see him as a poetic mythos builder who creates on a visual spectrum while others see him as someone who makes mediocre films that have horrible dialogue and too much slow motion. But where do you land on the Snyder spectrum? I definitely fall towards those who want his lunacy about a director’s cut to just go away. But Netflix is packing a two-and-a-half hour zombie heist movie right from the creative mind of Snyder. Have you seen Army of the Dead?
Snyder returns to the zombie movie subgenre that brought him great success with Dawn of the Dead but does he recapture the magic? Well…he does find some of it! There is plenty to process in this hulking zombie flick that combines zombie horror with big action heist thrills. Maybe it even throws in some time manipulation…or does it? The film will even ask you that question. One thing is for certain, Snyder really knows who to set up an opening credit scene. This montage of crazy zombie hijinks is tons of fun with topless showgirl zombies and a cover of “Viva Las Vegas”. So this film is going to be lots of fun, right? Well no. This actually takes itself pretty seriously. Sure there are aspects that act as comic relief but the crazy Zombieland type flick promised by this fun credit scene doesn’t really exist. This is just the start of some serious tonal issues throughout the film. The opening scene is a bit of a mix with stiff unfunny dialogue, road head, huge explosions, and legitimately freaky zombie scares. That last sentence is honestly this film in a nutshell.
Besides the tone, where does the rest of Snyder’s efforts lie? They are pretty mixed. Let’s focus on the positives first. Snyder is able to capture some great emotion at different moments in the film (especially with Dave Baustista’s backstory and what he must do to his infected wife). Bautista’s character and his acting are the real heart of the film. His powerful presence and poignant emotion in his performance are real standouts. Tig Notaro is another standout who is a lot of fun (especially when you think about how she was completely edited in during post-production). The characters of Dieter (Matthias Schweighofer) and Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick) have great chemistry together. The action is exhilarating which pops up often to fill out this large runtime. There are also some great scenes full of tension that just add onto the genre thrills. More or less, the film excels when the characters shut up. But the film really soars when Junkie XL’s score really kicks in as it packs quite the punch combined with intense zombie hunting action.
But if this film is so mixed there has to be some issues as well, right? The cinematography is a great place to start. Snyder decides to take on this duty for the film and it is a mixed bag. The purposeful lack of focus is used well…in a few moments. Otherwise, this film feels like an ugly blur that is hard to process. It becomes distracting…real quick. I mentioned before that the film excels when the characters shut up. Why is that? Well…the dialogue is REAL bad. The first interaction in the film between two soldiers I laughably bad. The “Coyete” that leads our team of heisters into the zombified Las Vegas is one giant walking exposition dump which ruins all of the mystique of the zombies which would have been cool because the film takes chances on new things (like a ZOMBIE TIGER). Most of the humor is just plain bad and plenty of the characters fall flat. Case in point…Garret Dillahunt’s Martin. Martin is basically the same military character with the same terrible twist of motivations that we get in SO many creature features. This trope needs to go bye-bye. Then in general, the film feels eerily like Inception…a rich Asian man hires a group of rag-tag people to pull off a genre heavy heist? A lot closer than you thought it would be, right?
A lot has been said about Army of the Dead in this article…but will you still check it out? Do you love zombie films? Are you a fan of Snyder’s work? Can you trade in plenty of dumb for a decent amount of fun? If your answer is “D…all of the above”, Army of the Dead just might be the film for you. The runtime feels long after a while but I still had some fun with the film. If some fun is worth streaming a 150-minute film on Netflix, go for it! You won’t regret it. But if you answered no to those questions above…DEFINITELY avoid this one. That large runtime is best used elsewhere.