warning: minor spoilers below for Army of the Dead
I was originally going to skip this film altogether because I normally avoid zombie films (I’m scared to death of zombies and the undead in general). However, after I was able to successfully get through Spiral earlier this week, I decided to give Army of the Dead a try because after all, why not? I’ve been proven wrong before with scary films (the Saw franchise being a notable example), so maybe Army of the Dead would be a similar case where finally, FINALLY, I would find a zombie film I could get into.
Unfortunately it didn’t quite work out that way.
Don’t get me wrong, Army of the Dead does have some good moments in it (I’ll get to them shortly) but as a whole….I just don’t like it. I don’t know if I went in with the wrong expectations or I’m just not that familiar with how Zack Snyder makes movies, but Army of the Dead by and large was nothing like what I expected it would be. For one, it’s much too long and worse, it begins with a first act that, after a killer opening, is almost dead on arrival afterward. I feel like if you’re going to do a big zombie heist film, you should get to the zombie action part sooner rather than later and the movie just took way too long to get to where it needed to go.
Thank goodness there were some fun moments along the way. The zombie tiger is one of my favorite parts of the whole movie and I love the role it plays within the story as a source of karma. I also love that I was right about the tiger being one of Siegfried and Roy’s (well who else in Las Vegas would have white tigers?).
And then there’s Dieter (the safecracker, played by Matthias Schweighöfer). To quote Looney Tunes, I like him, he’s silly. Seriously, Dieter is my favorite non-zombie character as he’s probably the closest you’ll ever come to seeing how I would act in a zombie apocalypse situation. It was genuinely fun to watch his character arc develop from beginning to end. Also, his chemistry with Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick) is genuinely funny. It’s an odd couple pairing that totally works (if only the rest of the film had clicked so well as those two).
On the zombie side of things (outside of the tiger), I was really intrigued by the film’s presentation of “Alpha” zombies. I’m pretty sure the concept of “smart zombies” has been explored before, but I like what Snyder was going for, the idea of there being a type of zombie that still continues to have some form of functional society and order, even if it’s taken on a cruder form. There’s even a mention of “trading” being done with the zombies, which is something you really don’t encounter that often (or ever??) in zombie films and it’s a plot point I wouldn’t mind seeing explored further. I really did enjoy the performances of the two lead zombies. Since we can’t understand zombie speak, most of their performances is channeled through their movements and body language and that was all very well done.
Oh, and on a quick note: I LOVE Tig Notaro, you’d never guess she’d been digitally inserted into the film after the fact.
But these good things don’t change the fact that most of the film rubbed me the wrong way, particularly in how it ends. I had a feeling early on that things wouldn’t end well for most everyone going in to Las Vegas because it’s a zombie film and that’s how zombie films work. But for the love of all things holy in cinema, one of the film’s primary subplots was rendered absolutely moot by how the ending pans out. What was the point of trying to rescue that one character if they die in the end? I get that not all stories have a happy ending but that plot trope in particular drives me crazy. As for the ending scene itself (not THAT scene with Vanderohe, the one before that), I get it, I do. It tugs at all the right heartstrings and is downright heart wrenching. But…I might have felt it even more if the preceding hour hadn’t bummed me out with disappointment.
If you enjoy Army of the Dead, I am genuinely happy for you and I’m glad you enjoyed the ride. But for me, it just felt wrong for the most part, and I felt more disappointment than satisfaction by the time the credits rolled.
Let me know what you think about Army of the Dead in the comments below and have a great day!
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