Army of the Dead is a ridiculously fun zombie-heist hybrid with stunning visuals and a killer soundtrack — but is it lacking something?
Army of the Dead is Zack Snyder’s first zombie movie since 2004’s Dawn of the Dead, and while they both are good movies, Army of the Dead is much more fun. This movie combines stunning visuals, a killer soundtrack, a fantastic cast, smart zombies, and epic action. However, even with all that packed in, it does have some issues. Nothing that completely ruins the movie, but ones that should be mentioned.
In Army of the Dead, there has been a zombie outbreak. Viewers get to see how it all started in the opening scene of the movie, which helps to speed things along nicely so the action can start. In order to catch the audience up from the outbreak to the story, there is a massive montage scene as “Viva Las Vegas” solemnly plays over the visuals.
Vegas is now walled off with the last of the zombie hoard inside and it is on schedule to have a nuclear bomb tossed out it, so they are cleared out once and for all. However, Mr. Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada) has 200 million dollars locked in a safe under the city — 200 million dollars that has already been written off by the insurance company. He asks Medal of Honor awardee Scott Ward (Dave Bautista) to assemble a team in order to break in and steal it before the bomb goes off. 50 million to split will be theirs if they pull of the deadliest heist in history.
What Works With Army of the Dead
In true Zack Snyder fashion, Army of the Dead boasts some pretty incredible visuals. Put aside the really cool looking zombies for a minute, and the cinematography, the angles that this movie is shot at, and the natural lighting that is used are just amazing. This movie is truly a lot of fun to watch for multiple reasons. There is so much to look at that — coupled with the killer soundtrack — makes for a fantastic experience.
Every song seems to picked for a reason, and right from the start with the use of “Viva Las Vegas”, it is obvious Zack knows what he is doing. Something he has certainly proved time and time again when it comes to placing music in his movies, much like James Gunn.
There are a lot of zombies movies out there. Some zombies are slow and dumb, but more recently we are seeing smarter, faster zombies, and that is exactly what Zack Snyder gives fans in Army of the Dead. These zombies not only look absolutely incredible, they can communicate with one another — at least one version of the zombies. Zack is sure to mention the dumb version AKA shamblers, do exist as well.
What makes the Zombie King and Queen, and their followers, so intimidating is not just in the way they look, which is pretty awesome in itself, but in the way they act. They are methodical, they make deals, and they know what they are doing. They have a plan, and they will do whatever they can to make it happen.
All too often the start of a zombie outbreak is drawn out in movies, or not explained all together. Zack Snyder doesn’t shy away from this, giving fans the details at the start of the movie, wrapped up in an epic action scene. No need to sit through thirty minutes of talking while you wait for it to happen, within five minutes, the zombie outbreak is explained.
The most unique thing about Army of the Dead is that it is not just a zombie movie, Zack Snyder takes it a step beyond that and gives us a heist movie as well. In fact, this is probably a heist movie at heart, with some deadly zombies roaming around that pose an obstacle for the team.
Speaking of the team, this group is badass, and they give viewers some pretty incredible action sequences. The opening montage is packed with them, but that is just the tip of the iceberg as there are a lot more to come. The acrobatics, and zombie killing stunts deliver some pure graphic violence, which will have fans of gore squealing with glee.
With an ensemble cast, it is always a risk that some will underperform, however the overall acting of this crew is quite good, allowing the audience to enjoy their antics, and root for them. Some are more liked than others, but that is always the way when you have a group casting — and often done on purpose for reasons viewers will discover later. Anyone who says Dave Bautista cannot act, clearly doesn’t know what they are talking about, as he is the heart and soul of this movie, and carries it as the lead without a problem.
What Doesn’t Work With Army of the Dead
Even with an amazing cast, there is a small issue with the human side of this movie, and that is the montage does not provide enough of a backstory for them. It takes a few conversations amongst each other to get the full picture of their relationships, and even then, it is a bit blurred, especially when it comes to the newcomers on the team. However, fans will know there is already an anime prequel slated for launch at Netflix, which will help to tell their story in full.
Speaking of the cast, Tig Notaro is a fantastic addition, and the fact that she never filmed a day with the cast, as she was replacing Chris D’Elia post-filming after accusations surfaced, is very impressive. However, once you know she is visually edited in, it is painfully obvious, and easy to pick out. That being said she amazing, and hilarious, and the film is for sure better off without her.
Due to a little bit of incohesive story telling, there are some moments that feel out of place. A couple of times it makes viewers wonder if they missed something, only to find out it will be explained later on down the road. But the confusion in the moment is there, and unfortunately takes the audience out of the movie, even if just for a little bit. This could have been in part to replacing D’Elia, causing a weird cut of events and scenes, and they aren’t completely horrible, but they should be mentioned.
When thinking of a zombie-heist hybrid movie, suspense and tension should come to mind. While there is some of that here, Army of the Dead just doesn’t feel like there is enough of it. This doesn’t ruin the movie by any means, but with a bit more heightened feeling of danger, it could have elevated it even more. For a movie that is nearly two and a half hours long, it does a great job of not feeling TOO long. That being said, there are some parts that could have been cut down or removed, and it might have been even better.
Army of the Dead is a super fun, action packed, zombie-heist hybrid movie that gives stunning visuals and a killer soundtrack. What more could you really ask for? A zombie tiger? Well, Zack Snyder thought of that too and don’t worry, it delivers.
While there could have been more backstory for the humans, a more cohesive way of telling the story, and a tad more tension, Army of the Dead is still a fantastic movie thanks in large part to the incredible cast, and the cinematography. Who would have thought combining a zombie movie with a heist movie could be so fun? Zack Snyder did, and thank goodness we have him in this world because this movie is a blast!
That cliffhanger ending is sure to make Zack Snyder fans, and zombie fans, VERY excited for what is to come.
About Army of the Dead
From filmmaker Zack Snyder (300, Zack Snyder’s Justice League), ARMY OF THE DEAD takes place following a zombie outbreak that has left Las Vegas in ruins and walled off from the rest of the world.
When Scott Ward (Dave Bautista), a displaced Vegas local, former zombie war hero who’s now flipping burgers on the outskirts of the town he now calls home, is approached by casino boss Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada), it’s with the ultimate proposition: Break into the zombie-infested quarantine zone to retrieve $200 million sitting in a vault beneath the strip before the city is nuked by the government in 32 hours.
Driven by the hope that the payoff could help pave the way to a reconciliation with his estranged daughter Kate (Ella Purnell), Ward takes on the challenge, assembling a ragtag team of experts for the heist. They include Maria Cruz (Ana de la Reguera), an ace mechanic and Ward’s old friend; Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick), a zombie killing machine; Marianne Peters (Tig Notaro), a cynical helicopter pilot; Mikey Guzman (Raúl Castillo), a go-for-broke influencer and Chambers (Samantha Win), his ride-or-die; Martin (Garret Dillahunt), the casino’s head of security; a badass warrior known as the Coyote (Nora Arnezeder) who recruits Burt Cummings (Theo Rossi), a slimy security guard; and a brilliant German safe cracker named Dieter (Matthias Schweighöfer).
Scott finds an unexpected emotional hurdle when Kate joins the expedition to search for Geeta (Huma S. Qureshi), a mother who’s gone missing inside the city. With a ticking clock, a notoriously impenetrable vault, and a smarter, faster horde of Alpha zombies closing in, only one thing’s for certain in the greatest heist ever attempted: survivors take all.
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Tessa Smith is a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved Film and TV Critic. She is also a Freelance Writer. Tessa has been in the Entertainment writing business for almost ten years and is a member of several Critics Associations including the Critics Choice Association, Hollywood Critics Association, and the Greater Western New York Film Critics Association.