If you’re a Netflix subscriber, you’ve probably already had your eyeballs assaulted by the trailer for Army of the Dead. Even if you haven’t, we’ve checked it out so that you can decide whether you too want to spend two-and-a-half hours watching this parade of blood and bullets, or whether you’d rather give it a miss.
This latest addition to the Netflix line-up is a bizarre hybrid zombie heist flick directed by Zack Snyder (of Suicide Squad and Justice League fame), based on an original story by the director himself. The plot follows a group of soldiers who plan a Las Vegas casino heist… amid a zombie apocalypse. The catch is that these these aren’t just any dumb zombies, and the rich businessman ( read:”villain”) who sent them in there isn’t only after the money.
🚨 WARNING: Spoilers ahead! 🚨
Army of the Dead has been in the pipeline for a long time. It was announced in 2007, but spent several years languishing in development hell at Warner Bros. before finally being bought by Netflix in 2019 – and voilà, another mediocre zombie film made it to our screens. Except it’s not nearly as awful as one would expect – for the most part, anyway.
I’m a big fan of zombie movies. World War Z and Train to Busan are among my favourites. Even the post apocalyptic reimagining of Romeo and Juliet, Warm Bodies, has a special place in my heart. I will, however, be the first to admit that it’s best to go into any film in the genre with very, very low expectations. Perhaps that’s why I was pleasantly surprised by Snyder’s intelligent, organised brand of the undead.
In Army of the Dead, we’re presented with both your typical, mindless, shuffling, brain-hungry zombies as well as a smarter, strategic kind who have taken control of Las Vegas and turned it into their domain – where all have to play by their rules. It’s a refreshing twist which, for a moment, may even have the viewer questioning which side they’re actually on.
It’s a hefty movie. At two and a half hours long, it’s a considerable investment of one’s time. The gore and frequent decapitations may be too much for sensitive viewers, and Snyder was clearly never taught the old adage “kill your darlings” (or perhaps he just thought that meant he had to kill off characters). But that’s not necessarily a reason to give it a skip. There’s some interesting camera work, and fun editing that makes it visually thrilling when not spending excessive time in slow motion. The film has enjoyable great characters who provide a few laughs in between endearing, father-daughter bonding moments. There’s even a little bit of weird and inexplicable, but almost sweet, zombie romance. Not that anyone wants to see those guys make out.
It goes downhill somewhat in the second half of the movie, though, when a creepy, glowing blue zombie foetus is introduced to the plot for no apparent reason. Perhaps there’s a sequel in the making that requires that particular plot point, but it comes across as an unnecessary gory addition to an already extremely bloody film.
The timing of the film’s release also seems somewhat questionable considering its villain – a Japanese businessmen who assembles the heist squad and sends them in to the zombie infested city under the pretence of cracking a casino safe. His more nefarious plan is father to obtain the head of one of the zombie leaders, in order to infect his own army of the undead and unleash them as a WMD. Releasing a film on a major streaming platform in which the only Asian character is trying to dominate the world with an army of zombies seems in poor taste in the current climate, in which Asians are being unfairly targeted across the globe.
Regardless, Army of the Dead has been relatively well received. Perhaps because the film does deliver what its title promises, or perhaps because we all kept out expectations nice and low before going into it. Alternatively, we’ve all just let our standards drop during lockdown.
This montage of chaos and carnage is perhaps not the most amazing film out there, but in the right company, it can make for a good time. If nothing else, you’ll have some super gory talking points next time you hang out with friends.