Army of the Dead is a zombie film that was written and directed by Zack Snyder. It released in 2021 via Netflix. The plot follows a group of mercenaries who plan a Las Vegas casino heist amid a zombie apocalypse.
A military convoy transporting confidential cargo collides with a car on the highway, releasing a genetically-engineered zombie. It kills all the soldiers while infecting two others. The zombies travel to nearby Las Vegas, infecting most of the city’s population. After a failed military intervention, the government quarantines the city.
Casino owner Bly Tanaka approaches ex-mercenary Scott Ward about a job to recover $200 million from his casino vault. Time is of the essence because the military plans to soon destroy the city with a tactical nuclear strike.
Ward agrees and recruits his old colleagues as well as his estranged daughter Kate, who works at a quarantine camp. Also, Tanaka’s head of security, Martin accompanies them. Kate directs them to Lily, a French smuggler familiar with the city. She joins the team along with Burt Cummings, an abusive camp security officer.
The team covertly make their way into the city and immediately come into contact with a zombie tiger, you read that right. Suddenly, Lilly wounds Cummings and explains that a more intelligent group of zombies known as “Alphas” will allow safe passage in exchange for a sacrifice. An Alpha female known as the Queen takes Cummings to the Olympus casino, where the Alpha leader Zeus infects him.
Eventually, they make it to Bly’s casino and get to work. However, Tanaka’s head of security Martin has an ulterior motive. Martin and Lily stay outside under the pretence of keeping watch, but instead lure the Queen into the open. Martin beheads her and stashes the head in a bag. Zeus discovers her body and carries it back to the Olympus, revealing that the Queen was pregnant. Enraged at the loss of his wife and child, Zeus leads the Alphas in an attack on Bly’s casino.
I can easily sum up Army of the Dead in three words, style over substance. Firstly, I loved the opening of this film. The action, gore and all around vibe got me excited for what I was about to see. At the same time, I had this feeling where I knew it was never going to reach those heights again and I was right.
Before I get on to all of the many negatives, let’s be positive for a moment. For the most part, the effects are great. It’s a bit of a mix between CGI and practical effects work. It’s always nice to see such effort in a big budget, mainstream film. There’s lots of fun, gore filled moments that are enjoyable. Also, the acting throughout is fine. Nobody is exceptional but no one is bad either.
Right, that’s about as positive as I can be. Let’s talk about the so called “zombies”. Simply put, I had a hard time seeing these creatures as zombies. They are far more Planet of the Apes than Dawn of the Dead. It’s about as far away from shambling walkers as you can get. I’m all for different interpretations of the undead but this is a massive stretch.
The characters are one dimensional and severely lack development. This is such a long film so to have this be the case is just terrible. One of the biggest crimes that Army of the Dead commits is that it really isn’t that much fun. It takes itself way too seriously and attempts to insert supposedly emotional scenes that incite laughter and ridicule instead.
The premise is basic but not a bad idea in concept. I say concept because the execution hurts my brain to think about. First off, why does Scott and everyone he recruits act like it’s going to be a piece of cake? Initially, it all goes smoothly because Lilly barters with the Zombie Queen. However, Scott didn’t know about any of that. Surely, he was expecting to have to fight through hordes of undead to get to the casino. When all hell breaks loose, we see how dumb of a plan that truly was. They had no chance of succeeding. The arrogance they showed in their approach to the job made it hard to feel bad for them. Also, why the hell didn’t Tanaka give them the combination codes for his safe? This would have saved them a lot of time.
Furthermore, they covertly make their way into Vegas and make a point of mentioning that flying in wasn’t an option. Well, why would flying out be okay then? You’d think any aircraft leaving Vegas would be shot down on the spot considering the circumstances. How were all 10 of them and 200 million going to pack onto a tiny helicopter anyway!?
Near the end, they need to escape before the city is nuked. I’ve seen movies exaggerate the time remaining before a bomb explodes but this is a new level of stupidity. They’re so casual and have time to make a stop or two, silly is an understatement. Talking of silly, why is Kate such a headshot master? Where did she get such shooting skills? The ending is just dumb in so many ways.
Army of the dead is a bloated mess. The opening is where the fun ends and it’s replaced by a mind-numbing headache of ridiculousness. Yes, there are moments of entertainment. There’s potential there for sure. Unfortunately, so much of it makes no sense.
Army of the Dead
The Final Score - 3/10