The short description given to the movie Army of the Dead on Netflix was “Dawn of the Dead meets Oceans 11”. However, after finishing the film, this description felt more like an admission of the formula they applied to create a blockbuster material. According to reports, this was a movie that Zack Snyder wanted to make after Dawn of the Dead, and the film went into development hell. That outdatedness is evident in the film as it somewhere becomes a visually engaging movie with a plot with all the cliched twists and turns.
So we are shown this US Military operation at the beginning of the movie where they quarantine the entire Las Vegas city as everyone there turned zombies. In the present day, the US government is thinking about a controlled nuclear attack on the town to wipe out the remaining zombies. And prior to that attack, one of the casino owners, Tanaka, wants to get the money stuck in the vault. So he goes to Scott Ward, a member of the army that carried out the quarantine operation, and asks him to assemble a team and do the job for him. How Ward and the team manage to do that is what we see in Army of the Dead.
In terms of story, the disappointment is mainly because of the inability of the script to become something beyond the Dawn of the Dead + Oceans 11 formula. For example, Huma Qureshi plays an Indian named Geeta in the movie, and a few minutes into that character, one would know why she is placed in the story. Yes, I know that it’s how emotional tracks are created in movies. But when you can see that at a very early stage of the script, it kind of ruins the excitement element. Snyder is trying to make it entertaining within the predictable template by creating characters with distinct backdrops and quirks. It does make the film feel less boring, but the feeling of watching something interesting was never there.
Dave Bautista, as this intense and grounded father character, was refreshing to watch. From the chaotic Drax of Guardians to the most level-headed guy in a suicide mission group, Bautista definitely manages to impress you as Scott Ward. Ella Purnell plays Scott’s daughter in the movie, and it’s that usual character of the disobedient child. Ana de la Reguera, Omari Hardwick, Tig Notaro, and Raúl Castillo are the other gang members here, and the most memorable one for me was Matthias Schweighöfer, the excited safecracker who demands utter silence even when a zombie army is about to get them.
Even though things are a bit tragic in the story, the treatment given to it by Snyder, who has helmed the cinematography for the project, has this inclination towards making it a fun ride. And Snyder can’t really ignore his signature intense treatment. So it becomes a mixture and somewhat feels like what if James Gunn directed Dawn of the Dead. As I said, there is nothing surprisingly great about the story here. So Snyder is focussing on fine-tuning the sequences. The sequence that shows us the level of protection given to the vault was gory and funny at the same time. And you get to see the signature slow-motion stuff in the final encounter between the main gang and the zombies. The visual effects that created the deserted zombie version of Las Vegas were pretty good, but the space continuity was a mess in the climactic moments.
Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead is a movie that has no ambitions to be unique. The trailer itself gives you a clear idea about the whole thing and what you get in the film is more of a scaled-up stylized version of what you would have expected. The film ends with the possibility of a sequel in a different city, and I hope they won’t make it another version of the same story. By the way, wasn’t that shot of the helicopter in the movie very similar to the one we saw in Kong Skull Island? Stock shot?
The trailer itself gives you a clear idea about the whole thing and what you get in the film is more of a scaled-up stylized version of what you would have expected.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended