Zack Snyder has had one hell of a career. Not all bad, not all good, just a wild career. With the “Snyder Cut” discourse still wafting through the air, we’re about to enter another Snyder universe…with zombies! There’s so much that could go wrong, but thankfully this project doesn’t take itself too seriously.
At its heart, Army of the Dead is a silly fun time. There are formidable “alpha” super zombies that do more than just shamble, and uh, a “zombie tiger.” Having the outbreak happen in Vegas, coupled with a quick cinematic intro showing the fall, is a perfect idea (and a great excuse for Elvis impersonator zombies!). It gets us into the headspace that we are going to be seeing something new and interesting…fast.
The premise of Army of the Dead itself beyond “hey there’s zombies” is absolutely absurd: a team is offered a job to break into a vault and bring back a ton of cash before Vegas gets nuked. The infection is contained to the city, which makes for an interesting lore-building meta-world on top of the micro-narrative of the cast. Naturally, you get the extremely “heist” tropes, like the “assembling of the crew,” and the faux “this is how it will go if nothing goes wrong” dream sequence, which I unabashedly love and Synder presents extremely well. “All you have to do is load the money on the helicopter and ride off into the sunset.” Sure!
“The premise of Army of the Dead itself beyond “hey there’s zombies” is absolutely absurd.”
The Vegas theme helps add to the camp (slightly), and there are a few actually tense action scenes amid lots of banter with a good deal of chemistry. Some of the cast is likable enough to the point where you care if they survive, though the “zombie expert” that helps lead the team doles out too much exposition at times, to the point of absurdity. In all, you will probably like someone, even if it’s the father-daughter tension between Dave Bautista and Ella Purnell (though it’s a bit forced at times). You’re also going to get plenty of Snyder tropes too, like extensive slow-renditions of old songs and a cliché The Cranberries, Zombie tune for good measure!
Another thing to keep in mind: this thing is long. Snyder isn’t one to want to cut much, so you have to suffer through some of the meandering dialogue, as well as a few dramatic scenes that don’t really hit. But through all of that, you do get a sense that this world is lived-in. While bloated runtimes often clash with delivering a pointed theme and message in many films, Army of the Dead knows what it is, and it revels in it for over two hours.
We don’t get many actual quality zombie flicks these days that lean into comedic elements, and funnily enough, the extremely over-the-top dark Zack Snyder is the one to deliver for the first time in a while. It’s just the right amount of cheese, albeit extra sharp.