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Zombies + Bank robbery + Zack Snyder = Netflix being like “shut up and make the movie already”. Everyone likes an action movie, whether you are there for the ludicrous premise or for the stunts and action sequences, stuff blowing up all around and the “Oh come on now” moments of disbelief. No! I am not referring to the upcoming F9- The Fast Saga movie release but to the seemingly smash success that is the “Army of the Dead” directed by the very popular Zack Snyder currently streaming on Netflix and select theaters.
Now, off late Zack has gotten himself a more of a cult like following, due to all the build-up and the eventual release of the “Snyder’s cut of the Justice League” but that’s a whole another topic for a separate time. The point is that, Zack has done many action films in the past, be it from directing movies like 300, Watchmen, Man of Steel and Justice League etc. To also being a writer and producer on some of them like 300: Rise of an Empire, Sucker Punch and now the Army of the Dead which incidentally he is also directing.
Oddly enough, this isn’t his first rodeo making a zombie movie either. In 2004 he directed the “Dawn of the Dead” which in fact was the remake of the 1978 film by George Romero and the movie was fairly successful for him as well. So, to see his name attached to the Army of the Dead was not so out of place to begin with. Plus when the below trailer for the movie dropped, it looked like a fun ride.
Right of the bat Army of the Dead trailer told us what this movie was going to be, with all the stereotypical tropes mixed in for added flavor;
- Zombie outbreak (Check)
- Famous location – Las Vegas (Sure)
- Bank heist (Because it’s Las Vegas No!)
- Ex-military gang (Best at what they do) + rookie experts & survivors (More the merrier)
- One last job (There is always one more job)
- Narrow timeline (Of course there is one)
- Big pay day (Incentive is everything)
- Alpha & Omega Zombies? (Evolved zombies?)
- Zombie army that can be controlled? (OK, zombie variety)
- ZOMBIE TIGER (OK didn’t see that coming for sure)
- Dave Bautista (Yeah, sure why not)
- Hiroyuki Sanada (Repeating myself, yeah sure why not)
Now that’s a lot of expectation, which is also mostly self-imposed if I am honest, cause now you are expecting something that had a potential to be good and with a 148 minutes run time, you would assume that he had to have more up his sleeve right? So the movie drops on Netflix and I convinced my wife to watch it with me and honestly we have mixed feelings about what we watched.
Summarizing the movie Army of the Dead (will try to keep it spoiler free as possible)
The movie starts of by establishing the premise very quick as to what happened and exactly how it happened, and honestly I didn’t expect it to start of like that, which was quite refreshing actually. It also establishes one of the core archetypes of zombies in the movies the “alphas” and you get a sense of what these creatures are capable off.
The movie progresses to show the downfall of the entire city and honestly it was shot in a frighteningly clam manner showing all the horror happening around them. You get brief glimpses of some of the characters and what they were doing when the whole city was falling into chaos. You get some great shots of soldiers fighting for the greater good and those minutes really showed you the struggle and terror that people were facing.
It sort of ends in an uneasy way, with the city being completely cordoned off from the rest of America to contain the spread any further. The way the scene ended kind off shock me and my wife, like oh he (director) is not holding anything back at all. The mood of the film is much darker and slower with a sense of weight and given what all has just happened in the opening minutes and what the characters have been through seems to be on point.
On a positive note? I guess, is that this is the first time that a zombie outbreak is actually contained to a single city and not spilled over to infect the world or rest of the country (in a movie plot that I have seen)
The movie jumps in time where we see some of the characters trying to go back to a “normal life” Of sorts and what they are up to. The main protagonist (Bautista) is suffering from nightmares and some form of PTSD, dealing with whatever that happened in the opening scenes of the movie. He works in a diner and on the T.V It shows a brief moment with the leaders of the country trying to figure out what to do with the remaining population of zombies that are living inside the cordoned section of the city.
Brief Spoiler Alert (Sorry) the action that they are debating is dropping a low yielding tactical nuke on the city to eliminate the threat, because Off Course they are dropping a nuke.
We are then introduced to the actual kicking off point of the story, where the casino owner (Sanada San) comes to our protagonist to make him the offer of a lifetime to rob his own casino and hands them the blueprint to the casino as well. So time to plan a heist and we get recruitment scenes for the main crew whose motivation is obviously the $ and the “civilian crew” that is recruited for their “mixed skill set” apart from the financial incentive. Some of the civilian crew gave the vibes of characters from the movie “Shaun of the Dead” and the others are straight up cringe “Influencer” type of vibe.
Nevertheless the crew is assembled and some extra unseen elements are thrown in the mix, which are explained by a few lines of dialogues and the team is off to go into the city.
Also fun fact, literally a few feet outside the walled of cordoned area is a huge make shift camp called “quarantine zone” and it shows the hard life people have to lead that have lost everything they had inside the city, family, homes, money etc. and how the some people are controlling the area by talking advantage of the people there. Plus you get to meet a smuggler character who will eventually take our protagonist group inside to the city.
Now all this time the movie has moved at quite a slow pace, building up the people and characters and giving them a back story / motivations of sorts. So it’s not your typical guns blazing non-stop action movie so far. Once the crew get inside the movie picks up a bit and they are introduced to a whole new zombie culture and society of sorts that most of the characters didn’t know existed.
It was a definitely a cool moment and also we get the zombie tiger, which was cool in its own rite. The next bits of the movie are some of the better exciting parts, where you get to see the different states of zombies and how they lasted inside for so long without a “food source” but the main plot twist revel which I didn’t see coming from a mile, was an interesting food for thought but one which definitely left you with a S*!# ton of questions, like how?
But for the sake of my brains sanity the action picks up pace again and we reach the casino and breaking into the casino’s vault sequence which was quite funny and out of left field almost to a point of it being cartoonish at one point.
Off course during this point some more twist and turns happen that push the movie forward and you get up to the big fight sequence (finally). The climax of the movie also takes another predicted and expected turn even though you are treated to some impossible moments but you ask your brain to ignore the fact and move on.
The underling thread of the entire movie has always been “Family” the sense of wanting to belong and exist and wanting a better life so to speak. The end of the climax moments also come full circle and you can sort of see it coming.
Zack does definitely leave the door open for a sequel but the last minutes of the movie felt a little cheap for me as I wish he had found another way to keep the door open without having to resort to that particular type of ending.
I know that’s an extremely absurd way to end this but I have skipped big chunks of the certain characters and plot because I don’t want to spoil anything and it’s hard to go into more detail without the proper context which would result in me inherently spoiling it.
But overall I wouldn’t say that I overly enjoyed The Army of the Dead nor would I say that it was bad. The acting was decent, the special effects were decent. The story was not too bad, I mean the movie was definitely heavy on story and a few sprinkles of action. Like I said in the beginning I have myself only to blame to raising the expectations of the film based on the trailer but overall i think the movie was fine.
I did go back and watch the 25 mins of the making of the film and it’s a nice insight into the mind of the director and his vision for some of the scenes. Netflix has already announced a prequel for the movie and a spin off anime series not to mention the possibility for a sequel.
But in the end I would recommend the movie Army of the Dead. That is if you have an hour and half to spare and don’t mind leaving your brain behind (no pun intended) then do watch it.
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