I don’t actively think of myself as a zombie-movie lover, but when I think back on the zombie movies from the past decade, I find myself surprisingly happy with my options. The gritty World War Z, the romantic Warm Bodies, the hilarious Shaun of the Dead and the unforgettable Zombieland. With all that said, Army of the Dead is a disgrace to the genre. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a totally tolerable and, at times, vaguely enjoyable movie. In fact, the fantastic opening credits lull you into a false sense of security, with a punchy opening song (Viva Las Vegas) and fast-paced shots of undead Vegas brides and Elvis impersonators, and a quick introduction to our main characters. But I think it says a lot about a movie when the opening credit sequence is, by far, the best part of the otherwise tiresome two and a half hours. The main issue with Army of the Dead is that it really doesn’t know what it should be. Is it gritty, romantic, or funny? No, it’s not really any of those. It’s just another poorly executed blockbuster (although can it even be called that, with a straight-to-streaming release?).
Army of the Dead’s director (and producer, and cinematographer, and writer) Zack Snyder, now best known for his work in the DC extended universe, has been getting a lot of press recently with his version of the Justice League film. I suppose, after having millions of devoted followers tweet #ReleasetheSnyderCut, and having one of the biggest production studios in the world give you 70 million USD to complete your vision for a superhero movie, your ego might get a little inflated. And that’s what this film feels like. While Snyder has said that this film has been in the back of his mind since his version of the Dawn of the Dead, Army of the Dead instead feels like a director filled with bravado pulled two words out of a hat (‘zombie’, and ‘heist’) and made a film.
With that said, the actors do seem like they’re giving it their all. Dave Bautista captures your attention (even if as a knock off Vin Diesel/Dwayne Johnson from the Fast and Furious franchise) and Matthias Schweighöfer is actually quite charming as German lockpicker ‘Dieter’. And the actresses truly are giving their all as bad-ass zombie slayers, but it’s clear their character design is entirely from a male gaze (really, you’re going to wear hoop earrings to go fight zombies? And who has time to do their eyeshadow in a quarantine camp, even if it is to match your mysterious nickname?).
So, this is my lowest rated film yet so far on this blog. Truly, a hot piece of garbage. But if that’s your thing (see; Sharknado and other iconic hot pieces of garbage) then give it a go. Who knows, maybe Dave Bautista’s tiny glasses will bring you some joy.