by @holocronGeorge for @horrornecronom
Zack Snyder and Netflix team up for one of 2021’s most anticipated films in a zombie action thrill ride perfect for the summer movie season. Marking Snyder’s first non-DC film in a decade, Army of the Dead sees a group of mercenaries venture into the middle of a zombie outbreak in Las Vegas to pull off a daring heist with deadly consequences.
Army of the Dead excels from the get-go in that its premise is brilliant. Since George A. Romero’s iconic Night of the Living Dead released over 50 years ago, the zombie genre of horror films has seen a number of unique variations from 28 Days Later to The Walking Dead to Shaun of the Dead and more. It’s a testament to Snyder’s story, therefore, that Army of the Dead still feels like an original and fresh take on this long-standing genre.
And the credit for this achievement ultimately goes to Snyder himself. This is his project top to bottom. Not only does he direct the film, but he came up with the story, co-wrote the screenplay, produced, and even served as his own cinematographer. In a year that’s also featured the long awaited Snyder Cut of Justice League, it’s great to see a director of Snyder’s caliber enjoying total freedom to craft whatever film he likes. In this sense, Army of the Dead will do little to convert viewers who haven’t resonated with Snyder’s previous films. Nonetheless, Snyder’s fingerprints all over this film are really what makes it worth seeing. The film is gorgeously shot – the usage of slow motion and out-of-focus frames add a cinematic quality that demands viewing on the biggest screen possible. The action sequences, as is true of all of Snyder’s films, are thrilling from start to finish. The editing is crisp and there’s plenty of blood and gore to satisfy fans of the zombie genre.
On the down side, however, the film runs far too long. At 148 minutes, Army of the Dead suffers from a bloated runtime that probably could’ve done with at least 20 minutes of edits. The excessive runtime is particularly felt in the latter third of the film, something that may simply be attributable to the fact that this is a zombie film and it’s unusual to see such films last so long. It’s not that Army of the Dead will bore viewers. It just would’ve benefited from a little tightening up and removal of some of the more unnecessary scenes. Without delving into spoiler territory, Army of the Dead’s ending fell somewhat flat for me. This is in part due to character decisions throughout the film and the lengthy runtime.
Army of the Dead is driven by a diverse, ensemble cast that all add an interesting layer to the film. Dave Bautista assumes the leading role as the founder of a mercenary group called Las Vengeance. Bautista’s character’s relationship with his daughter (played by Ella Purnell) is the emotional anchor of the film, an arc that, for the most part, pays off well. The remaining characters vary from witty and investing to annoying and humorless. Of particular note is Tig Notaro, who replaced Chris D’Elia following accusations of sexual misconduct. Snyder seamlessly weaves Notaro into the film, so much so that an unassuming viewer would have no idea the behind-the-scenes trickery required to insert the actor in this role.
Zack Snyder triumphs with his return to the zombie genre. Despite its bloated runtime and somewhat flat ending, Army of the Dead is a worthy and unique installment in the zombie genre of horror films. Brilliantly crafted action sequences, gorgeous cinematography, and interesting character dynamics are abound in a film that perfectly kicks off the summer movie season.
Images courtesy of Netflix