Second Opinion: ‘Army of the Dead’

See what Corrye said over here.

Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwick, Ana de la Reguera, Theo Rossi, Matthias Schweighöfer, Nora Arnezeder, Hiroyuki Sanada

Plot: A mercenary making a living as a fry-cook is approached by a wealthy business man who commissions him to break into zombie-infested Las Vegas. He puts together a team and takes the job.

Review: I think I’m done with Zack Snyder movies. At least, for the time being.

I was pretty keen to see this one. If there’s one Snyder movie I’d always goes back to, it’s Dawn of the Dead. This remake exceeded expectations and whilst not a perfect movie, it is the most fun thing he created. I was hoping this would be an extension of that movie, at least in tone. What we got was much bigger in scale, but downright bland.

Everything in this damn movie takes so long. Whenever a member of the team gets grabbed by a zombie I took it as a cue to get the kettle on. Not every death has to be a long, drawn out, dramatic moment. This movie leans dangerously close to melodrama territory. This is a silly movie, with a tone on the edge of pantomime. I think this makes it enjoyable on some level.

The quality of a zombie movie does not have a high bar to clear. They’re very forgivable. They can be complex metaphors for human nature, blunt satire of consumer culture or silly, sadistic jokesters. What they do need are zombies, a brainless horde that will eventually overwhelm you through numbers alone. They don’t have to be undead, and they don’t have to shambling slow movers, but they do have to be a mindless horde. The biggest failing of this movie is that it doesn’t feel like a zombie movie. They throw in so many different zombie behaviours – smart zombies, ninja zombies, super-tough zombies, robot zombies for some reason – that it never feels like a zombie movie. If feels like an adaptation of a video game rather than an original property. I’ve never watched a zombie movie and hoped to see some stinky looking ghoul riding a horse after a helicopter because he’s the smart one.

Snyder seems to have developed bad habits while making his DC movies, because there are two problems that plagued those movies that are just as evident here. The first is that Snyder can’t set things up or, conversely, sets things up and does nothing with them. We’re expected to have an emotional reaction to a character death that had only explained their motivation a minute or two earlier. Early in the film we learn that there’s piles of dried out zombies that will reactivate in rain, and we get a huge arsenal of weapons including a giant buzzsaw that is personally important to one character, but these things never come up in the story.

A close second to this biggest problem is Snyder’s seemingly having an obsession with setting up expanded universes. Throughout the movie we get introduced to ideas that are not explained and do not impact on this story all, including the bloody robo-zombies.

This whole movie feels out of touch with the zeitgeist. It’s not doing anything with the genre from the concept, to the setting to the style that we haven’t already seen and gotten tired of. One of the weirdest things that stood out to me came when they were trying to convince Bautista of one guy’s prowess at fighting zombies. “There are entire Reddit forums devoted to him!” they boast. This isn’t the flex they think it is, because I’d done this before the end of the scene.

It’s not without it’s own good ideas or fun moments, but I’m already vague on what happened and I just watched it. I guess we got off on the wrong foot when the movie opened with topless zombies in showgirl outfits. Then again when the movie ended with the song ‘Zombie’ but The Cranberries. I can only imagine Snyder made this incredibly tasteless decision because it was a well known song with the word ‘zombie’ in it, and there’s been no thought given to the origin of the song. If you don’t know, it was written in response to a terrorist attack by committed against England by the IRA. The bomb attack resulted in the deaths of Tim Parry, aged 12, and the 3 year old Jonathon Ball who had been taken out to buy a Mother’s Day card. I can’t imagine what compelled Snyder to include this heart-breaking protest song in his zombie-titty schlock.

Rating: TWO out of TEN