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Army of the Dead – Movie Review

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Army of the Dead – Movie Review

Rating: B- (Okay)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Netflix

Zack Snyder began his feature directing career with a bang on Dawn of the Dead, an exciting remake of George A. Romero’s zombie movie. His film projects have taken an interesting turn since then, but it’s nice to see him return to the undead with this new movie. Army of the Dead does some creative things with the zombies and the premise is one with a lot of potential. Snyder also fills it with plenty of action, as we watch a group try to steal money from an infested Las Vegas. However, the living and breathing characters end up underwhelming and with so many characters the audience is required to follow, it becomes difficult to care about too many of them.

Zombies are among the best movie monsters and that’s partly due to the ways filmmakers have played around with them. There’s also something scary about being surrounded by these turned humans with an appetite for flesh and brains. Snyder mostly trades horror for action in Army of the Dead and that’s perfectly acceptable, especially since he is a director with a strong visual eye. He also revels in portraying zombies in his own twisted way. He helped popularise the fast-moving zombies in Dawn of the Dead and with this film, he brings us smart and plotting zombies. They wind up being the most interesting personalities on the screen as they scheme and even strangely feel emotions.

Snyder has put a lot of thought into how these zombies operate and the actors deserve a lot of credit, too, for the way they move and react to these people entering their territory. The designs are imaginative and allow them to stand out from other movie zombies. Snyder has fun in other areas, too, especially with a zombie tiger who steals the show whenever it pounces on screen. The action gives us the expected shoot-’em-ups and there are some exciting scenes here and there, especially a sequence with a helicopter. Other times, we’re watching the characters shooting zombies in the dark and that’s not nearly as interesting.

Where the film disappoints is with the characters. Army of the Dead features a large ensemble and even though it takes the film 50 minutes to set them up, they merely fill simple archetypes. The dialogue doesn’t give the actors much to chew on, either, although Matthias Schweighofer is the most enjoyable as the safe cracker. Dave Bautista attempts to give some emotion to the lead mercenary, but he’s fighting for screen time with everyone else. The movie jumps between the different characters and their little subplots and one wishes the movie was a tad more focused. It’s difficult to care about most of the participants, a problem when you’re supposed to want them to get out of the situation alive.

It’s great that Netflix has given Zack Snyder a platform to go all-out with his ideas the way he wasn’t quite allowed to do with his studio films. He showcases a lot of creative concepts and the excellent opening title sequence makes one look forward to the upcoming prequel film already in post-production. However, Army of the Dead could have used more tightening in the writing and editing departments, especially in the first act of the movie as it’s shocking how long it takes to get to the infested city and get the plot moving. This is not a film that requires an enormous amount of set-up. Despite the flaws, one can see Snyder’s admiration for the zombie movie and the production’s ambition is, at least, admirable.

Stefan Ellison

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