ZACK Snyder debuted as a director with “Dawn of the Dead” in 2004, then he helmed lots of superhero films including “Man of Steel”, “Dawn of Justice”, “Justice League” and the costume epic, “300”. He now comes up with a new zombie movie, “Army of the Dead”, set in Las Vegas and pays tribute to Elvis Presley whose songs are used here.
If you love zombie films, you’d most probably enjoy watching this over-the-top version which is combined with action scenes and a heist story, so three different genres are represented in it. The film runs for 2 hours and 30 minutes and opens with a prologue showing a military convoy figuring in an accident caused by a newly married bride giving head to the groom while he’s driving in the highway.
The military truck turns out to be carrying a huge zombie who gets to escape, kills everyone, then heads to Las Vegas where most of the population gets infected so the U.S. government imposes lockdown in the entire city.
Former wrestler David Bautista (no longer Batista) gets his first big lead role in this horror-action flick as Scott Ward, who killed his own wife earlier after she got infected. Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada), owner of Bly Casino who left $200 million in cash in his casino’s vault, asks Ward to retrieve the money before the government drops a nuclear bomb that will decimate the city and kill all the zombies that have infested it.
Ward forms his own team that include old friend Maria (Ana de la Reguerra) and Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick), Bly’s annoying head of security Martin (Garret Dillahunt), German safecracker Dieter (Matthias Schweighofer), cigarette-chumping pilot Marianne (Tig Notaro), Latino zombie killer Mikey Guzman (Raul Castillo) and his friend Chambers (Samantha Win).
Ward’s daughter Kate (Ella Purnell), who has serious daddy issues with him, also joins them to search for the missing mom of two kids who are her wards. Also taken in are Lily (Nora Amezeder) or the Coyote, who knows the quarantined area by heart, and a security guard who abuses women, Cummings (Theo Rossi), who will serve a very specific purpose.
As you can see, it’s a very big cast and the buildup introducing all of them takes a bit too long. But Snyder wants you to get invested in them so you’d know what each of them brings into their mission. And Netflix has given him all the liberty to self-indulge and do whatever he wants.
So he takes his own sweet time in developing the narrative and the first hour is really very slow. It takes a full hour before the first big action scene happens when hibernating zombies get awakened and spring to life to attack the team.
The zombies here have evolved as they can now think, have feelings and can move so fast. There’s even a zombie tiger, a zombie horse and they now have a king and queen of zombies in their own community of the undead called the Alphas. They now have their own lair in the Olympus casino.
The king and queen even had sex and produced a baby that made the queen pregnant. When she died, they even showed the fetus taken from out of her womb: a zombie baby! We tell you, if you want to enjoy this movie, turn off your brain before watching it. You’d only love it if you delight in watching zombie carnage, exploding heads and bloody dripping entrails.
As for Ward and his team, well, as they say, you can have the best laid plans but it doesn’t mean they would work. To begin with, the U.S. president suddenly declared that the whole of Las Vegas will be nuked that night so they have to run against time. So the movie now becomes a guessing game as to who among Ward and his team members would die and who’ll survive.
But honestly, who cares? Truth is, despite the dramatic scenes given to Ward and his daughter, we don’t really root for any of them. They’re all forgettable and our reaction when something bad happens to any of them, like when the zombies get them, is “buti nga sa inyo. Serves you right!”
The end shows a character miraculously surviving the nuclear blast that wiped out the entire city and walking in the desert carrying his bags of cash, radiation be damned! He even hires a private plane and drinks champagne with the flight attendants, only to discover that he has been bitten by a zombie and is already infected as the plane is about to land in Mexico, which seems to be the setting of whatever sequel they have in mind for this empty romp of a movie. This is supposed to be campy or fun, but sorry, it’s neither.