After scary the hell out of horror fans with his action packed remake of Dawn of the Dead in 2004, director Zack Snyder returns with Army of the Dead.
The film stars Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwick, Ana de la Reguera, Theo Rossi, Matthias Schweighöfer, Nora Arnezeder, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tig Notaro, Raúl Castillo, Huma Qureshi, and Garret Dillahunt, and follows a group of soldiers who plan a Las Vegas casino heist amid a zombie apocalypse. Chris D’Elia was originally cast in the film, but after several sexual misconduct accusations were made against him in August 2020, Tig Notaro was hired to replace his character and reshot his scenes using green screen and body doubles.
Snyder add some interesting aspects to the zombie mythos in AotD. It’s alluded to that the military either found or at least have been experimenting on a lethal apex cannibal that may or may not have alien origins. When a car accident causes a military convoy to lose its containment pod, the creature breaks out and dispatches the soldiers easily. Like Dawn of the Dead Snyder plays fast and loose with how long it takes people to turn after being bit. Some people take awhile while other turn almost instantly. The alpha then leads the reanimated soldiers to Las Vegas where they easily start infecting the entire city. Those that are bitten by the alpha become lethal predators that run, jump, dodge, and almost too smart at times. However when Alpha’s protégés bite someone those victims only become the slow moving and shambling kind of zombies we have come to know in most movies. It sets up an interesting hierarchy within the zombie horde. The zombies also sometimes emit a blue glow from the eyes as well as blue blood (harkening back to that alien origins speculation).
It’s revealed that soldier, Scott Ward (Dave Bautista) and his team were either dispatched or already in the city during the initial outbreak. The intro depicts the fast moving outbreak and details the war that took place throughout Vegas. Eventually, the military decides to set up a blockade to keep the zombies in. Local residents are detained in camps outside of Vegas just in case they are infected.
Time passes, Ward starts working at a fast food restaurant until he is approached by casino owner Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada) and his associate Martin (Garret Dillahunt) about a job to steal over $200 million USD from the vault in his casino before the US military destroys the city with a tactical nuclear strike a day later. Ward ultimately agrees and recruits his former teammates Maria Cruz (Ana de la Reguera) and Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick), along with helicopter pilot Marianne Peters (Tig Notaro), German safecracker Ludwig Dieter (Matthias Schweighöfer), and Mexican sharpshooter Mikey Guzman (Raúl Castillo), who brings along his associate Chambers (Samantha Win). Martin joins the team to observe them. To help them infiltrate the city, they enlist the help of Ward’s daughter Kate (Ella Purnell), who works at the quarantine camp just outside the city and became estranged from her father after he was forced to kill her mother when she had turned into a zombie. Kate directs them to Lily (Nora Arnezeder), who knows her way around the city. Lily also recruits Burt Cummings (Theo Rossi), the security guard for the quarantine camp, for undisclosed reasons. When Kate learns that Lily had escorted her friend Geeta (Huma Qureshi) into the city, Kate insists on tagging along to find her, much to Ward’s objections.
Once the team enters the city all bets are off as the action doesn’t slow down until the end of the film. And Snyder creates a magnum opus of high octane set pieces that are intense and will leave you on the edge of your seats. Where as it isn’t gory as Dawn of the Dead, Army of the Dead does feature some horrific kills one of which involving a zombie tiger.
Some critics have complained about the film being too long. I personally thought it was paced okay, there is a head scratching rescue mission towards the end of the film that felt a little forced and I had major issues with how some of the characters ended up. All in all though, the film never felt too long and the scene towards the end when Ward is running and gunning down zombies in the casino is pretty awesome.
The ending sets the groundwork for a sequel but the future of the franchise will apparently be at least two prequels coming our way sooner than later.
In September 2020, it was announced that a prequel film and an anime-style television series are in development to expand the franchise. Matthias Schweighöfer will direct and star in Army of Thieves, which takes place before the events of Army of the Dead and focuses on Schweighöfer’s character, Ludwig Dieter. The film will also star Nathalie Emmanuel, Guz Khan, Ruby O. Fee, Stuart Martin, Jonathan Cohen, Noemie Nakai and Peter Simonischek which began development in October 2020. Filming wrapped in December 2020.
The anime-style series will be titled Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas and will center around some of the characters from Army of the Dead during the early phases of the zombie outbreak. We might see that awesome intro scene play out in a series so I am definitely hyped for that.
All in all, Army of the Dead is an absolute and even slyly sneaks in some references from classic zombie films like Return of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead.
HipsterZOMBIEJoint Experience highly recommends checking out Army of the Dead.