TL;DR – This film is like a shotgun of ideas slapped up on the screen, and none of it lands.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I paid for the Netflix subscription that viewed this film
Army of the Dead Review –
I need to start this review with a little proviso about filmmaker Zach Snyder, the director, writer, and cinematographer of this film. I do think he can be a great filmmaker because when his particular style lines up with the right narrative, you can get great films like 300. Unfortunately, you need someone to help channel that style, or you get a bloated mess of a film, and I think we are in the latter today y’all.
So to set the scene, we open in as a military convoy with a high-value cargo leaves Area 51, transiting it somewhere safer. However, when a driver on an oncoming car becomes “distracted”, their car crashes into the convoy killing many soldiers. But just as the survivors regroup, something comes out of the cargo and rips them all to pieces. That would be bad, but what is worse is that those once dead come back alive, and Las Vegas waits over the horizon. Sometime later, after the government lost the battle and instead decided to wall off the infected town, a mysterious businessman called Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada) enlists the help of Scott Ward (Dave Bautista) and his team to break into the city. Because there is a lot of money left in those casinos, and you might as well take it before the government nukes the place.
While this film is a mess in many respects, there were hints here and there of a good movie. The first of these was the production. Everything in this film looks really good. I liked the effects of the zombies, the gunplay, the dressing of the abandoned hotels. The fx team should be especially cited for the way they helped make a zombie tiger, which might be the best element of this film. As well as this, if you were not looking, you would not have been able to tell that Tig Notaro was entirely added during post-production.
Besides the production, there were also some good performances in the mix here. One of the best finds in the last ten years is that Dave Bautista has the charisma and emotion to hold just about any film together. Indeed the reason why the film is as watchable as it was is in part to his performance. Then there was the odd charmingness of Matthias Schweighöfer’s Dieter and the sheer bravado of Raúl Castillo’s Mikey Guzman.
However, while there are these glimpses into something interesting, they are just that, glimpses because this is a film that very much falls into the category of style over substance. You first see this in a story that is both over-bloated yet also bare-bones. This movie runs like how I play an RPG giving the main plot the barest of lip service while running off on every side quest it can manage. For example, we are going to have robot zombies here and not explain it at all. Also, there is going to be alien zombies, but don’t get your hopes up here. Also, we are going to shoehorn in a groundhog day style Time Loop. But then we will not actually do that, but we will spend a lot of time pretending that we might have, maybe. Army of the Dead is a film that shows when it should tell and tells when it is should just show.
These cluttered side quest moments take away time that could have been used to build up our main characters, so we actually cared if and when they died, because frankly, I did not care at all. This is because the film found all the most used characters archetypes from the zombie genre and just dropped them in there. [SPOILERS] Oh, the super creepy ‘I’m going to betray you all’ dude actually betrayed you all. I am shocked. Oh, the one character that was specifically told not to leave the group and do their own thing left the group and did their own thing shocking. Wait, is that a zombie baby? That could be interesting, and no, we are just going to blow past that. [/SPOILERS]. And no, a interesting title sequence is not a good replacement for character growth. It was like they were trying for Train to Busan, but they just got a less good Peninsula creating a frustrating mess.
In the end, do we recommend Army of the Dead? Well, no, no we don’t. If some of the more bloated elements had been trimmed and more focused on character, then maybe, but that is not the film we got. If you did like Army of the Dead, I would recommend to you Cargo.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
Have you watched Army of the Dead?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review on any of the social medias and you can follow us Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day.
Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Army of the Dead
Directed by – Zack Snyder
Story by – Zack Snyder
Screenplay by – Zack Snyder, Shay Hatten & Joby Harold
Music by – Tom Holkenborg
Cinematography by – Zack Snyder
Edited by – Dody Dorn
Production/Distribution Companies – The Stone Quarry & Netflix
Starring – Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwick, Ana de la Reguera, Theo Rossi, Matthias Schweighöfer, Nora Arnezeder, Hiroyuki Sanada, Garret Dillahunt, Tig Notaro, Raúl Castillo, Huma Qureshi, Samantha Win, Richard Cetrone, Michael Cassidy, Steve Corona & Chelsea Edmundson
Rating – Australia: R18+;