Army Of The Dead (2021)

So this film happened. This may surprise you but I actually haven’t seen that many zombie movies. Well, not the original ones anyway. Most of the ones I’ve seen have been modern zombie movies, ones which are self-aware and have already shown knowledge of the genre (with the exception of I Walked With A Zombie). So I have certain things I expect from the genre, most importantly you have to be bringing something new to the table. Sometimes that is just something as simple as making it incredibly slick. I feel that’s what they were going for here, they were going for a cinematic slickness which, combined with the heist aspect, would create something new.

The heist aspect never really comes off though. A good heist movie involves the main characters outsmarting people or tricking technology, neither of which occur in this. There’s the obvious double cross, but it occurs VERY early on, and the person hides their true nature for the rest of the film, so when they then turn on everybody else, it’s not a surprise as you knew he was going to do that. So it’s a heist movie without surprises, and really, without an antagonist. Because of this it doesn’t really work as a heist movie.

It has some nice ideas though, the opening credits are great (and very reminiscent of Zombieland), but even that has a downside if you think about it for a few minutes. Like there’s a scene where a Liberace-like character is getting ready to play piano as chaos unfolds behind him. Music is being played over this scene, and it has to be because if there wasn’t and you played it as a standard scene, you’d be able to hear the chaos behind him, which means you know that HE’D be able to hear it. That’s the problem with Snyder, he is so dedicated to getting THE SHOT that it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make sense. Also the film has decaying zombie boobs, because it’s clear his core audience is 14 year old boys.

Oh, and the zombies roar. Because they’re supposed to be seen as not human. BUT, they’re shown to be smart, they plan, they plot etc. And there is an element of humanity to them, they clearly understand the concepts of betrayal and negotiation, and they mourn the dead. The large setpiece at the end is brought about when the head zombie finds his dead partner was pregnant with a zombie fetus. There is enough information in that short sentence that means you could be mistaken for thinking this film has good ideas, but it does nothing with them. The ideas are woefully underused, and it’s a massive disappointment. I mean, there’s a moment where they talk about the rain bringing certain zombies back to life. The film then proceeds to not rain. Then why mention it? The film constantly talks about delicious steaks, then serves us cold porridge when it knows we’re hungry.

The characters……they are not good characters. Everybody is just different degrees of either shitty or forgettable. They’re not helped by the dialogue though, most of it is just generic shit.

Now onto the look. Normally with a Snyder film you know at the very least it’s going to look incredible. Well, not so much with this. This is going to be a personal preference but I HATED the way most of this looked. The way they filmed it in very high definition and the way they handled the cinematography made everything look fake. Specifically everything looked like scale models. So even though it’s all real, nothing looked like it. Perfect example here:

There’s also one shot choice which I personally found weird but you can disagree. There’s a moment where someone is talking “I’m definitely more important than that guy, oh. didn’t know you were listening. Okay, I’m definitely more important than that guy” whilst pointing at some people. Now, the camera never cuts away from this person, so we never see who they’re pointing at. Surely that’s just begging for a reaction shot of the people she’s talking about? If we don’t see the reaction shots, and we also don’t know who they’re even talking about, then what was the point of that piece of dialogue?

On the plus side: like I said, it had some good ideas, some of the performances are good, and it is good to see something new. Some of the deaths are damn brutal and I love them. Plus it has a zombie tiger. And I will always appreciate a film using Thea Gilmore’s cover of Bad Moon Rising.

Maybe it would have been better if the film wasn’t set so late after the zombie outbreak happens. If you hear “zombies in Las Vegas” you think of bright lights, you don’t think of abandoned buildings. With the exception of the sublime opening, the film never makes use of it being in Las Vegas. I get it, destroyed buildings and silence can add to a zombie movies tone to highlight the difference between before and after, but that normally happens with places we recognise, either in cities we know all the sights of, or in locations very generic which we’ve all been to (malls etc). There’s a reason the posters all highlighted the neon look, because that’s what you think of when you think of this location. You don’t think of various browns. There’s no reason this film is in vegas, and now I think about it, it would have made a lot more sense if it was set in Iraq or Afghanistan. Not just for the visuals, but also the militaristic nature of the survivors, and the willingness to nuke it and pretend it doesn’t exist.

So yeah, maybe see it, but not if you’re busy. Or just watch Zombieland instead.

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