Zack Snyder has managed to garner some good will with me after Justice League, but I know how he can be and how easy it can be to lose that good will.
Overindulgent and self-indulgent are his weak spots. And a film that is not only written, directed, produced and shot by him, yeah, I think you can say this is going to get self-indulgent, even if the 2 and half hour runtime wasn’t a big enough giveaway.
One thing I know for sure is that he shouldn’t be the one writing. And let’s add cinematography to that list, since everything looked blurry. It was like that Woody Allen movie where he was a director losing his eyesight, so every scene he shot for his new movie was out of focus.
It was distracting, along with the technical mistakes, which usually go unnoticed by me, were blatantly clear here. I don’t think I’ve ever watched a movie with a 100 million dollar budget have dead pixels.
I thought I was seeing things at first, the film gets pretty dark when they enter the casino, so almost every scene there I noticed white little dead pixel dots.
Normally I wait to watch RLM’s reviews of movies before I write my own, but I wanted to see what they had to say and they pointed out the dead pixels and a few other things that I noticed but dismissed as my eyes playing tricks on me.
Someone had to of noticed the dead pixels in post production. That had to of come up during editing. So why leave that shit in? There’s no way Zack Snyder left that in as a choice, right?
There’s also a take, also in the vault, where Bautista’s flashlight was already on, but he doesn’t know so he ends up switching it off, then having to switch it back on. I noticed that flub immediately. Why that take? Clearly they had several which is why his flashlight was left on.
It’s so sloppy. And the script isn’t any better because the writing in this is absolutely terrible.
Dawn of the Dead had the added benefit of it being written by James Gunn. There’s no Gunn in sight this time around and it shows, as he tries several times to mimic not only the humor but the drama. Both falling flat on their faces.
I like dumb movies. But the movies need to realize how dumb they are. Like for example the Fast and Furious franchise.
You really think they’d be on their 9th one if they took themselves as serious as this movie does? Nope!
Army of the Dead feels so uneven at times, with spotty tonal issues, even identity issues as at times I had no idea what this movie wanted to be. Is it campy? Is it a melodrama? Is it a comedy? I don’t know because none of it works.
It also just stops midstream and becomes a melodrama about family. Which is a running theme not to mention joke about the Fast and Furious films, but they know how to balance that stuff, in Army of the Dead it feels put in as an afterthought.
I do think the film starts off strong. I thought it set the tone perfectly as this over the top, corny, pretty cheesy action zombie flick.
He once again does what he did with Dawn of the Dead, giving us backstory of the zombie outbreak as credits roll by in a montage.
It’s really good, making me wish this was the movie we got. It shows our lead Scott Ward played by Dave Bautista as him and his zombie killing crew try to gather up enough survivors as they can before all of Las Vegas is walled off by shipping containers.
I’ve always been a Bautista fan, at least while he has been in movies. I’m not really sure what he was before. From the way he’s built, I’d say MMA fighter or wrestler.
What got me to take him seriously was how serious and grateful he was to get the part of Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy. So much so, he went and took extra acting lessons.
I also just feel like the man is a good guy, I mean when actors like Armie Hammer turn out to be a cannibals, just a simple good guy is enough.
I also really loved him in Blade Runner 2049, as short as his role was. He manages to show off his chops in a short that was made to accompany the film that I don’t know many people saw.
The guy has range other than comedy and action hero. As much as I knock this film’s melodrama, not once did I ever think this is bad acting.
That can be said with everyone in Army of the Dead. I never saw a bad performance, just the bad writing they were stuck with.
I was confused with what the zombies were, but I’m reading here that it was alien DNA… I must have missed the memo on that one. I thought it was just a C.H.U.D. situation.
They do start the film off with a couple of military guys in a convoy discussing what it could be they are transporting, but it was just speculation.
Either way, now this is a fine example of why I thought this film was headed right down the campy route, as the convoy carrying the zombie is derailed because a guy who just got married in Vegas is getting a BJ from his new wife.
It was so amazing that he drove off into oncoming traffic, killing them and releasing the zombie.
This is a fast zombie, so he’s able to take out the whole team of soldiers in the blink of an eye.
Now all of Las Vegas is infected.
So that’s the setup for the plot. The real plot comes in a few year after this, skipping over the cool stuff.
During the credits acting as our exposition, we learn how badass our lead is Scott Ward (Bautista).
I knew an actual Scott Ward who was a major dickhead, but I’ll try to not let my biases get in the way.
As badass as Ward was, he’s now just a fry cook in some shitty diner.
But his day is about to get brighter as Tanaka, a casino owner, gives him a visit, offering him a job.
Get into the walled off Vegas and rob the money just sitting in his casino’s vault. Here’s the catch, aside from the city full of the undead, there’s a ticking clock, as the government plans on nuking all of Las Vegas.
So the issue right away is with this ticking clock, as it isn’t much of one at first. They are sent in a full day before the nukes drop.
Then to speed things up, they pull this half assed plot of moving the time up to just a few hours. Just out of nowhere, yeah we’re going to nuke this whole city now instead of waiting a day.
It’s so damn stupid which could have been done in several different ways. Like maybe they get trapped and it takes longer to get to the casino than they thought.
Maybe the helicopter they all plan on leaving with the money on needs more time to be repaired. Anything would have been better than yeah the president just wants to see something go boom now.
Again, that might actually work if this film was campier and didn’t take itself so seriously, but it does.
So now Ward needs to gather his team to help him break into this casino. He gathers up the remainder of his old buddies from his zombie killing days which include…
The first on the list is Maria, a mechanic who might have been an old flame… it honestly isn’t even touched on or hinted at until almost the final act of the movie before she immediately dies. Another moment that just felt tossed in there at the last minute.
The other crew mates include Vanderohe and a helicopter pilot named Peters played by comedian Tig Notaro. I was never the biggest fan of hers, I just don’t think she’s all that funny. And nothing she says in this movie changes my mind on that.
But I liked her character. She’s kind of this smartass, slightly untrustworthy loudmouth, there to kind of annoy everyone on the team, who’s only out for herself.
Thing is… she’s not actually in this movie. Yeah, she was digitally put in later because the actor they originally had in the role turned out to be Chris D’elia.
So Tig is just CGI’d into scenes. But honestly, if I had no idea this going in, I couldn’t tell at all.
The other original team mate is Vanderohe. He works as a physical therapist for seniors, and used to have a saw as his weapon on choice. Which I don’t remember ever seeing him use.
It’s kind of just there to be used to cut a hole in a wall when the team finds themselves surrounded by zombies.
Now that the band is back together, they need a safe cracker, enter Dieter the most generic German name Zack Snyder could have picked.
Here’s my question, why do they need a safe cracker? They’re breaking into a casino to rob from the casino owner, who is spearheading this operation. So wouldn’t he have the vault code?
Why do they need someone to break into something that the owner of the vault should have access to? It makes no sense!
Also on the team, a popular YouTuber who got popular with this trick shots for killing zombies during the outbreak.
To get into the walled off city of Vegas, Ward turns to his estranged daughter Kate who works as a volunteer in the refugee camp surrounding the barriers of the wall.
If she agrees to help them, he’ll make sure the kids in the camp are taken care of. This gets her onboard, introducing the team to The Coyote. She smuggles people behind the wall to scavenge as there’s still riches behind this wall, you just have to fight through hordes of zombies to get to it.
She guides them through, also tagging along is Tanaka’s head of security Martin, played by one of my favorites Garret Dillahunt. I just knew before I even found out what character he was playing that he was going to die.
That seems to be almost a given with him. You see his name pop up you should be ready for two things, he’s the bad guy and is going to die in the end.
I was right on both accounts.
So since I’m at it, why can’t they just fly a helicopter in? They mention in the movie but don’t give a reason to why you can’t fly in but can fly out. Again, a plothole that makes no sense.
I guess I should also touch on the daughter character Kate. Her motivation was the money, but then she learns that her friend with two kids went behind the wall and never came back.
This whole subplot is absolutely terrible for several reasons, I doubt I can get into it without spoilers, so warning from here on out that shit is about to be spoiled.
So Kate’s whole mission is to find her friend. She breaks off from the team to go find her, most likely in the den of these alpha zombies, most likely already turned.
She knows the city is about to get bombed and that her dad will most likely follow after her, endangering the others on the team.
Which he does, getting just about everyone killed including her father. And! To make things even worse, her friend dies when they crash the helicopter.
What the hell?!!
Now to get into the twist that not surprisingly also makes no sense. So this whole heist is just a ruse, so Martin, can steal an alpha zombie head.
So… why not make that the mission? Why pretend like stealing money from the vault was what they were after? What also doesn’t make sense, this isn’t the first crew sent in, but they too went for the vault, dying in the process.
And for some reason the corpses were all dressed like our team members. Is Snyder trying to introduce time travel? There was a quick scene of a robot zombie, so…
I guess I never explained what Alpha Zombies are. The original zombie that escaped the convoy is the alpha. The zombies he creates are kind of higher thinking than the rest.
The alphas have created a zombie empire with the alpha as king and some showgirl dancer as his queen. Also this zombie is pregnant.
I have no idea how that can happen, but this dead person got knocked up postmortem. Just add that to the list of things that make zero sense in this movie.
Martin, our evil corporate bad guy on the team, cuts off the head of said queen, enraging the alpha king.
So now, our team who was given safe passage, it now besieged by hard to kill alpha zombies.
Everyone pretty much dies at this point except for Ward, who ran off to save his daughter.
But he gets bitten, the getaway helicopter crashes, killing Tig and his daughter’s friend making all this pretty damn pointless. They don’t even get the money.
There’s still so much to discuss about this movie, but honestly I’d be here all day and this review would never come out on time.
So my final rating is a RENT it.
I know I was pretty hard on it, but for me the action saved it. Every time something wouldn’t make sense, or a technical issue would pop up that I’d notice. Or get so out of focus I thought my vision was going, the action always kicked in at the right time.
This movie is dumb as hell, takes itself way too seriously and none of the humor ever works. But
Bautista is cool and sometimes it’s nice to see zombies go pop.
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