‘Army of the Dead’ Treads Familiar Territory, But Is An Enjoyable Zombie-Packed Ride – Review
Long before Zack Snyder became attached to the Warner Bros. DC Comic film division, Snyder was known as one of the handfuls of indie voices who made the pivotal leap from directing music videos to feature films in the early 2000s. His breakthrough was remaking George A Romero’s Dawn of the Dead–career suicide for anyone not up for the task. The rest is history and seeing as his time with DC Comic properties is winding down, a return to good ol’ guts and gore couldn’t be more welcomed.
Army of the Dead is more than just a nostalgic flex-down memory lane, it’s an exciting rendition of its own. A definite feat seeing as Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead is already regarded as not only one of the best in the zombie genre, but one of the best modern remakes period. Sure, his comic-book films have endless waves of fans but saying that Dawn is his best work is actually not that uncommon of an opinion. Now, his two zombie flicks do share similarities, in that he carries his signature sense of dark humour and irony with horror, yet it almost feels unfair to pit the two against each other. It may be full of classic tropes and plot points, yet Army of the Dead excels at creating unique surprises. Leaning heavier into action-horror, it complements Dawn‘s more suspenseful aspects pretty well in what will surely be a rad double feature.
The key to Army of the Dead being a standout in Snyder’s filmography is its ensemble cast, who are firing on all cylinders. The story follows a group of mercenaries reunited after an utterly tragic zombie breakout in Las Vegas. The group was initially on the front lines of man’s first zombie war, mowing down the undead with bullets and buzz saws on the Vegas strip. Many comrades were lost, leaving the group scarred by their PTSD. Goes to say that this backstory is all shown in another trademark Snyder slow-motion opening credits.
Vegas is now barricaded from the rest of society, with a quarantine center right outside filled with people who could potentially be infected. Some time has passed since the outbreak, and many of the mercenaries find themselves struggling to carry on with life as veterans. Much like in reality, they have been neglected, and are trying to make ends meet by working at auto shops or flipping patties. However, the job of the century soon presents itself. The task is simple; sneak into zombie-filled Vegas, retrieve millions of dollars stored away in a huge vault, leave before the government launches a nuke to finally wipe out the undead. With nothing left to live for and nothing to lose, they take the gamble. Though no one ever placed bets on the zombies secretly becoming more self-aware and forming their own advanced hierarchy.
Although Dave Bautista is positioned as the leading man of the film, almost everyone gets their righteous amount of time to shine. An absolute highlight as this is one of the most diverse ensembles Snyder has assembled. From Omari Hardwick to Ana de la Reguera, to Hiroyuki Sanada, everyone fully commits to the camp and silliness of it all while still keeping it grounded with heart. It would be criminal not to mention Matthias Schweighöfer and Tig Notaro, who make for the best comedic relief anyone can ask for. Even though many of these players fill in familiar roles, it’s never distracting or feels overly cliche. One just can’t get enough of this group, but especially Bautista.