Updated: May 24, 2021
MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD
A Decent but Failed Attempt at being Different
I feel like I have to mention this at the beginning, because people tend to either like or really dislike Zack Snyder’s films. I like some of Zack Snyder’s films. Batman V Superman, Man of Steel, 300 are all films that I actually like. Army of the Dead was incredibly disappointing. I first saw trailers for Army of the Dead a few months ago and I saw some actors I liked, I saw a new take on zombie films (I love zombie films), and I was very excited for it. A zombie-heist movie was an interesting idea and I was excited and quickly very disappointed. Is Army of the Dead a zombie film? Yes. Is it a heist movie? Not really. The other big selling point of this film is that the zombies are different from zombies people are used to. Were they successful? Yes and no.
Let me start with the zombies of Army of the Dead. Rather than a mindless horde of walking monsters, this film has an army of “alpha zombies” which are smarter and faster than your run of the mill zombie. This all starts from the original zombie, which seems to have been created by the government in an attempt to create some sort of super soldier, that’s my speculation based off certain bits of dialogue. Whoever the original zombie bites becomes an alpha zombie, the others become regular mindless zombies. I like the idea that zombies are smarter, more organized, it’s interesting, yet it brings up a moral issue for me. An element of any zombie movie is the hero mowing down a horde of zombies as they run at them, and this is largely okay because these are undead monsters with no real level of intelligence or even sentience. The zombies of Army of the Dead are shown to have some level of primitive intelligence, they are organized, they reproduce, so seeing our human protagonists just mow down hordes of these zombies, who are just protecting their territory, is somewhat problematic for me. Rather than them killing some mindless, dead organism, they’re killing loads of undead, new organisms. It’s not a major thing, it’s an action movie, we can expect the killing, it was just a little off putting. Another issue in this film was the “queen” zombie. They managed to sexualize a zombie…is that really where our society is? Putting a zombie in, well, lingerie? You can say this is a stretch, but the sexual objectification of women in film is problematic and it’s insane to me that this happens even with a zombie. Why does a zombie need to be sexy? My final qualm with the zombies is the makeup and design. It’s really nothing special. The horde of zombie just seems like regular people with a little bit of blood. The zombie king looks like he’s wearing a halloween costume…and generally I wasn’t impressed by the appearance of the zombies. I appreciate the attempt at being different, I wouldn’t say it was successful.
The cinematography in this film is horrible. Minus a few shots, there were 3 or 4 that I thought were nice, pretty much every other single shot in the film, I hated. Zack Snyder, to his credit, is well known for desaturated films, dramatic shots, and I like his style. In this film, Zack Snyder added a new element to his style…out of focus photography. There are several shots in this film that have absolutely nothing in focus, and clearly done on purpose sometimes. This was probably an artistic decision, one that I don’t understand and don’t really want to…because it’s annoying! Where it gets really annoying is when a closeup of a character is soft, there’s a whole scene where “Kate” is out of focus! The tip of her nose is the only part of her face in focus! It’s horrible, just do another take where you focus on her eyes! That’s the basics! Throughout the film there is an incredible lack of clear focus, it is hard to watch and incredibly annoying. If you don’t have a focus puller, I’d rather see something done on autofocus than have nothing in focus. At the end of the film there are CGI problems too. My problem has been with the focus, not with the quality of effects, but at the end of the movie there are at least 3 BAD shots. Actually BAD shots. As the helicopter flies away from Vegas and when Scott finally kills the zombie king, the CGI is horrible. I don’t know how they got into the movie.
The writing and acting in this movie was not great. Even the characters I was supposed to like, I found pretty unlikeable. The comedic relief of the film “Dieter” was plainly unfunny. Several decisions made by characters in the film made no sense. I could tell that they were trying to have some marvel-esque comedic quips, and I didn’t find myself laughing at a single one of the jokes in this film. A lot of the performances seem pretty phoned in. Tig Notaro’s pilot character was added in post to replace the previous actor after assault allegations and you can tell she was added later. Dave Bautista, who I am a big fan of, seems to really have only tried in one scene, the emotional scene with his daughter. The rest of the movie is fairly phoned in. The only actor who I thought did a pretty decent job with what he was given was Omari Hardwick as Vanderohe. The recurring joke in the film has to do with food trucks…it wasn’t funny the first time, not the fourth either.
The best part of Zack Snyder movies is the action and that’s true for Army of the Dead. There were some pretty sweet action scenes, even considering the moral qualms I have with it that I talked about above. I can’t complain. Zack Snyder didn’t hold back on the gruesome parts of killing zombies and the fight scenes are the best moments in the film. That’s about all the good I have to say about this film.
Overall, I had high expectations for Army of the Dead. I was intrigued by the concept of a zombie-heist movie, but it’s not what I got. I found the visuals of this film so hard to watch. The lack of focus was super noticeable and this style was not for me. The zombies, albeit interesting and different, were not pulled off well. There was an amalgamation of several different ideas, that didn’t really work. I feel like there was a lot of “what if the zombies were smart, what if they were organized, fast, strong, what if they had a baby, what if they had a king, what if they were super soldiers, what if this…what if that?” And they decided to go with every idea they had, instead of just going with a couple. Too much, too quick, it wasn’t great. I would give this a 1/5 but added a .5 for the action and the effort to be different. Would I watch this film again? No. Absolutely not. Should you watch it? Nah, this is an easy skip.