Army of the Dead

Army of the Dead Is a Monument to Zack Snyder’s Hubris

Dept. of Half-Baked


Army of the Dead is two hours and 28 minutes of overwrought and overindulgent filmmaking that doesn’t quite live up to the promise of its opening credits. This is Zack Snyder at his auteur-est. He isn’t just the director of this movie, but also the producer, the writer, and the cinematographer. So much so that it makes for an exemplar of what someone means when they say “Snyder-esque.” For better and for worse.


With seemingly little to no oversight or studio interference, this might be the closest thing we have to something that is pure, unadulterated Snyder. (Yes, even more so than with Justice League, where he still had to play within the confines of the DC sandbox.) So much so that all of his trademarks and preoccupations aren’t just on display here, they’ve been turned up to 11. The slick title sequence, the speed-ramped action sequences, the deeply saturated colour palette, his biblical non sequiturs, all of it is in this movie, and your level enjoyment will vary depending on how much of a fan you are of such things… and of Zack Snyder.

There Are Two Kinds of Zombie Movies…

Army of the Dead

There’s the popcorn flick that is one part horror, one part thriller, and one part action movie, with plenty of violence, and just enough emotional heft to make you care when one of the main characters eventually turns. As they are wont to do in these things. (See: Zombieland, Dead Alive, Shaun of the Dead.) And then there is the zombie movie as social and political commentary, as a metaphor for all of humanity’s woes and excesses: corporate capitalist greed, social decay, millennials. (See: Train to Busan, 28 Days Later, World War Z.) Occasionally, there is also the movie that manages to deftly merge all of these elements, with George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead still the standard-bearer by which new entries to the genre are judged.


Army of the Dead is none of these things. And I’m not even sure it’s trying to be. Much like Sucker Punch before it, Army of the Dead is the only other Zack Snyder movie that isn’t based on something else. This one seems to have sprung, fully formed, from inside his own bizarre brain, greatly influenced by comic books and video games, by westerns and Kurt Russell movies, but not, rather confoundingly, by anything the zombie genre has produced in the 17 years since he remade Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.

If he did, he would have known that Peninsula had already pulled off this very same idea of a zombie heist movie, and done so incredibly well.

By refusing to even consider how far the genre has come since his last effort, Snyder has made a movie that feels derivative and uninspired, with absolutely no follow through on whatever kernels of originality he might have had.

But that isn’t even this movie’s greatest sin.

We Were Promised an Army of the Dead!

Army of the Dead

This is a movie that looks great on paper (AND in a three minute trailer!). In a nutshell, Dave Bautista leads a team of highly efficient mercenaries into a walled off Las Vegas that’s been overrun by zombies in order to perform the ultimate casino heist before the President of the United States nukes the city on the 4th of July. Army of the Dead should have been Army of Darkness meets Ocean’s Eleven meets Escape from New York. It should have been batshit crazy.

Instead, it’s just a little boring. It takes 50 whole minutes for the crew to enter Vegas, at which point we get none of the hordes of zombies that we were promised in the trailer. After that, it’s a painfully slow slog through every unfiltered idea that Zack Snyder had for this movie. He makes absolutely no decisions and gives us everything and the kitchen sink. Some father/daughter drama. Check. A harebrained refugee metaphor? Okay. Political conspiracy. Why not? Throw in some zombie animals, an ill-conceived and poorly developed twist, and the most pedestrian soundtrack choices, and what you have is a movie that is crying out for a 90 minute edit.


Now, I can accept the fact that Zack Snyder may have had absolutely no interest in furthering the zombie genre. Maybe all he wanted to do after the stress and trauma of the last four years was to make a good old fashioned popcorn flick with lots of guns, and gore, and high octane action. I would have been happy with that. Hell, I would have loved that.

Army of the Dead, however, cannot quite decide what it wants to be. It doesn’t quite lean into any of its ideas. It is neither here nor there. It is overstuffed and half-baked. It is the end product of what happens when everyone around you smiles, and nods, and tells you that you’re a genius.

It Was Not a Zombie Jamboree

Army of the Dead

Here’s the thing. Army of the Dead isn’t terrible. Snyder has assembled a fun company of players lead ably by the incredibly versatile Dave Bautista. The movie has a handful of standout jokes and some relatively successful action sequences. But like a lot of his previous efforts, the whole is in no way greater than the sum of its marginally entertaining parts.

You might just be better off just watching this trailer 70 times!

Army of the Dead is now streaming on Netflix.

Uma has been reviewing things for most of his life: movies, television shows, books, video games, his mum's cooking, Bahir's fashion sense. He is a firm believer that the answer to most questions can be found within the cinematic canon. In fact, most of what he knows about life he learned from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. He still hasn't forgiven Christopher Nolan for the travesties that are Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises.

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