Disclaimer: This review has nothing to do with my personal vendetta against Zack Snyder for his crimes against the film industry
Release date: May 14, 2021
Director: Zack Snyder
Who should watch this movie: Folks who liked Oceans 12 the most out of the Oceans trilogy. People who’s favorite movie is 300.
When should you watch this movie: When you are well and truly stoned.
The sell: Here is a compliment sandwich for Zack Snyder’s latest production, Army of the Dead. This was a fantastic idea. The notion to combine a heist flick with zombies is, I believe, brilliant. There is so much potential for the added drama of zombies to up the stakes of the classic heist scheme in a cool and exciting way. Additionally, zombies are cool and heists are cool. There is no reason for the combination not to be doubly cool. Alas, such was not the case for this film. Now, here is an internet friendly list of reasons why this movie sucks.
- Story: The set-up of this movie, i.e. heist in zombie infested Las Vegas, is on its own a fine premise. Unfortunately, the framing of this central conflict is messy with gimmicks. The plot is approached from several conflicting angles, including the government’s plan to nuke the quarantined city, a casino owner with dubious motivations, the forcible detention of individuals who’s relevance is never explained, a new and more intelligent breed of zombie, and a cast of characters whose arcs fail to integrate with all of the above.
- Pacing: Perhaps because, as stated above, this film is attempting to tackle far too many concepts in under three hours, the pacing is awkward and disjointed. Yes, it is action packed, but because the lines of story are so disorganized, there is no momentum pushing the action forward. Consequently, it feels as though the film moves from action scene to action scene, set-piece to set-piece, with no continuity or internal logic. The effect is a lack of tension in moments that ought to be climactic, and far too much tension in extraneous subplots. It’s difficult to know when and where the “climax” of this film is at all, and thus, the ending feels abrupt and unsatisfying.
- Tone: There was an attempt at humor, clearly meant to add brevity to an otherwise dark and intense story, but due in part to the writing and in part to the acting, the jokes fail to land. Tig Notaro was shoehorned in to deliver funny lines throughout the film, and she delivers her lines arguably better than the entire rest of the cast, but instead of balancing the tone, it muddles the already gimmicky story and confuses what should be serious scenes with comedy.
- Character Development: The appeal of both the heist format and the zombie format is the potential for a strong ensemble cast, assembling a team with various skillsets and solving a string of problems that play to each of their strengths. Army of the Dead attempts this but fails to grasp what makes the “team” trope appealing. Instead of working together and combining their experiences, the team – which was shoddily thrown together in the first place – is split up and left more or less to their own devices for much of the film. The audience isn’t given enough information to understand characters’ motivations and are therefore left without reason to be attached. The main character is given a tragic back story, which would be fine on its own, but is instead combined with a father-daughter relationship sub-plot as well as a romantic sub-plot, none of which relate to the others and ultimately lacks emotional weight.
- Politics: Zack Snyder’s attempt to be topical is perfunctory at best, irresponsible at second-to-worst, and just stupid at worst. The story touches on (more like glances at) concepts including immigrant detention centers (and the abuses therein), sexual violence, and secret military experiments. There are moments that also seem to nod at the ongoing global pandemic but it’s so superficial it may not even have been intentional. None of these concepts make sense within the concept of heist/zombie movie and would feel pedantic if they weren’t executed so poorly.
- There’s more but this is getting long.
And now another compliment to finish the sandwich: The zombie tiger was cool, I enjoyed that. Now can we please stop giving Zack Snyder money?