Army of the Dead (2021)


I want to open this post by saying that this is probably my favorite Zack Snyder movie. I know I said that about Sucker Punch, and I still need to revisit 300 and Watchmen to see how I feel about them, but yeah, this is my new favorite of his. Army of the Dead is a zombie film apparently unrelated to Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake, but it’s a fun zombie heist flick to turn your brain off while watching. Unfortunately, my brain is stuck in the “on” position, so there are some things I want to talk about.

Let’s start with the plot. After a car accident releases a new breed of zombie–remember kids, wait until you’re off the road to suck dick–Las Vegas falls to the undead outbreak. It’s contained to just the city, which will be nuked in a few days. Scott Ward (Mr. Dave Bautista, AKA Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy) is hired to steal two million dollars from a Las Vegas vault before everything explodes, so he gathers a lovable team of misfits to sneak past the zombies and achieve their goal.

Of course everything goes wrong. They explain how the heist is supposed to work before it happens, so naturally it all falls to shit. It’s pretty obvious that the money isn’t the main goal, and I was actually surprised to see that the vault was indeed loaded with cash. But the real treasure is the head of a super zombie and the ability to make your own zombie army. Granted it’s not the head of the alpha, but… okay, maybe I should go over that.

There are three tiers of zombies in this film. The vast majority are your regular slow zombies with all the usual traits and weaknesses. They do hibernate, but I think that was also done on The Walking Dead so it’s not too unusual. But then there is the alpha zombie. He’s intelligent, still feels emotions, and can apparently impregnate other zombies (the baby doesn’t make it). He also has a cape and wears a metal helmet to avoid headshots, so that’s pretty cool. The undead he personally creates are smarter and faster than the average zombie, and have a sort of culture where they revere the alpha. They can understand things like an offering of a living human (Theo Rossi, AKA Shades from Netflix’s Luke Cage) in exchange for safe passage through the Vegas Strip. It’s okay, he was a cop. So the real goal is the head of a smarter zombie, whose bite would give whoever owns it the ability to create zombies whenever they wanted. Normal zombies, but still.

Okay, so that’s the plot. Lemme talk about Scott’s daughter, Kate (Ella Purnell). Her entire reason for going into Vegas is to rescue Geeta (Huma Qureshi), a dear friend who left her kids behind in order to rob slot machines but got caught by the alpha. Kate is willing to risk her life to save Geeta, and while I’m not discounting the power of platonic friendship, I feel like there was an edit of the film where we found out that Kate and Geeta were a couple. But Geeta is barely a character; you could replace her with a mannequin and the plot would largely be the same, as long as you acknowledge that this mannequin needs saving. At the end of the movie the only survivors are Scott, Kate, Geeta, and Marianne Peters (Tig Notaro digitally inserted to replace Chris D’Elia, who is facing sexual assault allegations). They get out on a helicopter, but the alpha jumps on and bites Scott during the ensuing fight. The alpha is shot in the head, the helicopter crashes, and the only uninfected survivor is Kate. We see Peters dead, and Kate has to shoot Scott, but Geeta… just sort of disappears. She gets on the helicopter, takes the front passenger seat, and then is ignored completely during the fight with the alpha. We see her reaction to the incoming nuke then bracing herself when the shockwave hits the copter, but we never get confirmation that she died in the crash. Hey, Dody Dorn, editor of this movie, Zack Snyder’s Justice League, and Memento–what the fuck?

What else… If the vault is owned by the guy hiring them, why do they need someone to crack the safe? So we can have a comedic character out of his element. There are pressure plate traps on the way to the vault, but apparently one activation and they’re used up. The crew don’t just throw bodies on the plates, but instead try to lure zombies to walk on them, because… it’s more dramatic? Outside of the helicopter gang, one other guy survives, but what a shock, he’s infected and will most likely spread the virus. A 28 Weeks Later ending, if you will. A lot of the film is blurry, and not just because I need new glasses–the background of several shots is intentionally hazy, but my guess is that it’s to hide scenes where they had trouble editing Notaro in. There’s a declaration of love that comes out of nowhere, and within minutes the declarer is dead and essentially forgotten. At one point someone suggests that the dead bodies found near the vault are actually the bodies of their crew and that they’re stuck in a time loop, but that’s not what happened so I don’t know why we had that moment. All in all, it’s absolutely not a perfect movie, but it’s the Snyder film I dislike the least. Low bar, but it is what it is.

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