Army of the Dead follows a ragtag team hired to pull off a bank heist inside the quarantine zone of now-zombie infested Las Vegas.
[This movie was viewed on Netflix at the time of this review.]
Army of the Dead Review
When going into a Zack Snyder movie, there are some preconceived notions you can expect to be fairly accurate:
The opening is going to be the best part of the movie.
There will be some unique and creative design choices in the style and cinematography.
The plot will be pointless
The characters will be vanilla
Army of the Dead does not break this trend. So, if you like Snyder movies the chances are you'll find enough here to enjoy, but you will also have to wade through the weak script to get there.
In true Snyder form, the opening is perfect. This continues his trend of putting all of his artistic prowess into the opening sequence, like in Watchmen, Sucker Punch, and of course Dawn of the Dead. Snyder's introduction in Army feels like a blend of his Dawn opener and the equally brilliant Zombieland (which is not his, but the similarities are worth noting). It uses off-kilter music befitting of Vegas (Viva Las Vegas), but it humorously juxtaposes with zombie mayhem. It isn't his most original work, but it sets a high bar for the remainder of the film.
And as for the rest of the film, it feels like one of his weaker efforts. While I personally have been a fan of Snyder's visual creativity through his overall filmography (I admittedly find his muted, high-contrast schemes appealing), Snyder made some weird and unoriginal moves in Army. He applied some kind of blurred background effect throughout that I'm uncertain to the purpose. Beyond accentuating characters in the foreground, it felt like a cheap method to desaturate low budget CG backgrounds, yet this felt pointless in practical scenes like warehouses and junkyards. Beyond that, the rest of the production felt like standard action film fare more akin to a Michael Bay sell-out.
The plot is purposefully bonkers, but also leads itself into inescapable plot holes that manage to further disconnect you from the reality being presented. The hodgepodge of predictable characters mean only to give you something familiar so you don't have to think about it. The heist plot also doesn't plan to throw many unexpected twists your way (though the predictable ones are certainly there). This movie makes no attempt to hide its intentions...this is a zombie actioner through and through. We're here for a fresh take on zombies and the chaos that tends to ensue therein. And while we get plenty of that, one could claim it comes at the cost of a few brain cells.
Despite these critiques and complaints, Army is plenty enjoyable. It reminds us that we may have missed out on some prime Dave Bautista years, as the guy is just too darn lovable. Some might say he's the poor man's Dwayne Johnson, but I'd give Drax a bit more credit than that. The pacing is decent (though the runtime is significant given our subject matter) and we get enough goofy banter and zombie action along the way to satisfy the popcorn flick enthusiast in most of us. Don't expect to have your mind stimulated too much and you just might have a fun time soaking in the action-horror eye candy.
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 7/10
Horror Quality: 4/10
Film Quality: 6/10