Netflix: Army of the Dead

Zack Snyder spins crap into crap.

Context is everything when it comes to judging media. You have to base your reviews off of what a movie is trying to be rather than what you wanted it to be.

For instance if Grown Ups 3 involved Rob Schneider’s character getting aids and slowly dying over the course of an hour and a half, while it might be a satisfying ending it’s probably not what the Happy Madison audience is looking for. On the contrary if you went in to see a biography on Abraham Lincoln and suddenly Lincoln jumps on the table and starts twerking, it might harm the film’s historical authenticity.

Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead is the kind of film you expect to be utter trash but enjoyable trash, and to an extent it is. Within the first ten minutes of the film you’ve got a blowjob, zombie titties, explosions, and a slow motion montage of Las Vegas getting taken over by zombies to the tune of New York New York. Thankfully I was watching this at home, where nobody but my neighbors could hear my cries of despair.

If you want something clever, go watch another film. The same goes if you’re looking for a coherent plot or character development. Army of the Dead is for bros who high five each other when they see a dude getting a blowjob while driving down the desert road, because blowjobs are cool bro.

Dave Bautista takes on the role of Scott Ward, ex-military man who gets hired by Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada) to infiltrate a zombie quarantined Las Vegas to rob a casino vault before the government nukes it. His daughter Kate (Ella Purnell) goes with him and a group of completely forgettable hires who are all destined to get killed one by one over the course of the film. Army of the Dead is a great reminder that while he works in supporting roles, Dave Bautista can’t carry a film.

Army of the Dead wastes much of the potential of its crew. It has some more notable names including Garret Dillahunt that nobody will remember as Cromartie in The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Tig Notaro who is not allowed to be funny, Raul Castillo, Huma Qureshi if you’re a Bollywood fan, and more. The cast makes me think of what you’d see on a Borderlands movie, a mishmash of character roles that serve the interact in the form of short quips on how the situation sucks. Tig Notaro is especially out of place because she was green screened into the film in post-production.

Visually this movie is quite impressive, until at least you get to Zack Snyder trying to be intelligent and deep. Snyder seems to think that religious symbolism boils down to making a shot look vaguely Jesusy so I’ll just drop this screencap with no further explanation.

Still there’s nothing wrong with seeing someone get torn to shreds by a Vegas zombie tiger. Looking at Army of the Dead through the lens of the fast food theater that it’s supposed to be, there’s a lot of shootin, splodin, and brains and gore to satisfy even the hungriest of audience members. If you’re looking for George Romero’s subtly and clever discussion of societal issues, you’ve picked the wrong director. That guy died four years ago.

Army of the Dead also has the biggest cockblock I’ve seen in recent films. In the beginning scene where the characters get into the Vegas quarantine zone they pass by big piles of hundreds of dried out corpses and one character makes a comment that they come back to life when it rains. You expect it to foreshadow some big scene toward the end, but it doesn’t. It never rains. Son of a bitch. Why do I get the feeling they want people to stick around for the prequel?

Zack Snyder could have chopped off an hour of this film and made it a standard theatrical 90 minutes. The whole movie ultimately feels like a massive waste of time, where basically nothing gets accomplished. The alpha zombies are the only creative part of this film, but are essentially vampires that are far more intelligent than normal zombies.

Spoiler: The big plot twist in Army of the Dead ruins the momentum and doesn’t make any sense even in the context of the film. The big twist is that the guy who hired the team doesn’t actually want the money, but instead wants the head of an alpha zombie and sends one of his own goons with the team to secretly get it. Why lie? Why not hire them to get the head? There is no purpose behind this subplot and it’s so disconnected from the rest of the film that it feels like a late reshoot.

Army of the Dead asks the audience to accept some great leaps in logic to keep the plot moving forward and is ultimately far more boring than a movie where a zombie tiger rips a man’s head off has any right to be. Snyder never seems sure if he wants the movie to be schlock or a serious drama but with zombies, and the film kind of fails on both fronts as a result.

Rating: D

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