Army Of The Dead (Film Review)

If the last few years have taught us anything about modern culture, it’s that the name Zack Snyder is present in our daily lives and there is some debate as to whether or not that is a good thing. SPOILERS, son!

“Following a zombie outbreak in Las Vegas, a group of mercenaries take the ultimate gamble, venturing into the quarantine zone to pull off the greatest heist ever attempted.”

I’m not sure where to start with this one, so i guess i’ll start at the beginning : The opening sequence is needlessly dark and blurry, but worse still, it’s painfully drawn out and populated with awkward and cringey dialogue. It’s not a great setup for a film in general….

This can just about be forgiven as this sequence is designed to introduce the world and give context. That is, until you realize the rest of the bloated two and a half hour run time follows this trend.

As we progress through the film we lose any utilisation of Las Vegas as a setting. Arguably one of the most visually iconic places in the western world. This could have been set in Sligo, Cullybackey or Toome – essentially anywhere with a casino.

And these are all criticisms that could have been directly addressed in the script and editing. The pacing slows down to a crawl at the start and despite minor references, you forget there’s Zombies infesting this world as they put the crew together. I can’t help feeling it could have lost around 30 minutes in editing. Much of that being Bautista getting onto the chopper in the finale. Any chance mate? There’s a nuke on the way like.

The characters are instantly forgettable. It’s not that Bautista is a bad actor (outside of his well known role as Draxx), admittedly he does a fine job as a jacked, stoic badass. My only real criticism of his performance is that he does mumble his way through most of his lines in a monotone fashion, with his mouth closed.

The special FX are good enough and the CG is adequate. The few times we get to see the Vegas skyline in ruins it looks wonderful.

There’s Romero vibes in here and even Boyle vibes. It verges on Resident Evil but easier to watch.

Its not paint by numbers but some points of the film feel like shock for the sake of shock. I’m guessing Snyder was going for “shock and awe” but it came across as “pull a name out of the hat”.

Soundtrack-wise the music does a wonderful job of setting the mood and using Zombie by the cranberries was a nice touch.

The ending of the film felt like two endings awkwardly tied together and neither knew where to stop.

It feels like he tried to set up lots of different story strands like the time loop, in the hope there would be sequels, but it was all too vague and half arsed, but equally deliberate enough to be distracting. All it really did was give the sense that they never explained or resolved anything that was implied. Surely if the plan was to have this film as part of a wider narrative it should also stand alone?

Cinematography.

Army Of The Dead is shot entirely in Snyder-Vision (cos everything Snyder-related must have the word Snyder crammed into it. Is this the Snyder-cut, of this Snyder-Horror part of the Snyderverse???).

By Snyder-Vision i mean shallow depth of field focus which is used with all the frequency of JJ Abrams full of sugar and lens flaring. This soft focus gets irritating very quickly (as i stated in commentary of the opening sequence). In interviews i discovered this was because Snyder got carried away with some vintage Canon lens he bought off ebay. Zach lad : chuck it, mate. I had to check i wasn’t watching a pirated copy of the film.

Many reviews of the film slate the cinematography for the huge amounts of “dead pixels” that appear during the run. I must confess i didn’t notice this myself during viewing but once you notice them you can’t unsee them..

Zack Snyder

After the hype surrounding the release of his cut of Justice League (arguably one of the worst films ever made, outside of Batman Vs Superman – And i’m commenting having not seen his cut because the original was so terrible…), Snyder has been oversaturated in the media of late.

Fans of this site will know that i like to let the hype die down a bit when it comes to films, preferring to review nostalgic classics than the latest over-hyped releases. I was so sick of hearing Snyders name that despite watching this film on release day, it took me till now to get round to finishing the review. Is anyone else sick of hearing it?

Conclusions.

Despite all of its flaws i feel like this would be a treat in the cinema? Is that because we’re so starved of it? Could be. Given the current climate of thermometer guns and daily infection statistics, this film came out around the right time. Also I feel like it’s been ages since we had a competent Zombie film, at least since Zombieland 2. I guess it’s just a nice treat to see a film that isn’t muddied up by trying to preach, or send an important message about race, gender, politics or religion.

For me Army Of The Dead promised a fun Zombie heist movie. I wanted a fun, action packed oceans 11 with zombies. I got a convoluted, blurry mess. I feel like the trailer missold the film somewhat.

It’s a shame as 2004’s Dawn Of The Dead remake was fantastic. This was the guy who brought us Watchmen and 300 and to an arguable quality extent, Sucker Punch.

There’s a prequel film and a series coming (and/or possibly Anime?) so if you enjoyed it you can get your teeth into that. Personally the thought of it is giving me indigestion.

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