Let’s get this out of the way first: this has been Zack Snyder’s year, between Zack Snyder’s Justice League and Army of the Dead (and Netflix’s planned sequels and prequels) Snyder is back and, honestly? Better than ever. Not saying that either ZSJL or Army of the Dead are perfect but are they a ton of fun, especially the latter? Hell yes.
Now, onto the show:
From Left To Right: Ella Purnell; Nora Arnezeder; Matthias Schweighofer; Dave Bautista; Ana de la Reguera; Tig Notaro; Omari Hardwick
This cast and the characters they play are, almost all (and we’ll get to that in a bit) perfect, with the standouts, among the living, being Omari Hardwick, Matthias Schweighofer, Samantha Win and Tig Notaro. Among the dead, Richard Cetrone and Athena Preamble are absolutely phenomenal as Zeus, the Alpha Zombie King and his Queen respectively.
Everyone in the cast came to play and you can tell they’re having a blast, fully helped by a script that focuses on why these people are who they are. This is extremely important as the premise of the film depends on making you understand why, by all that’s holy, anyone would walk into a quarantine zone full of zombies!
The other standout is the costuming, practical effects and the CGI. The moment you see the characters, their clothing and locations tell you everything you need to know about them, their various levels of PTSD and how they’re existing, but not actually living, post-apocalypse. As for the CGI, it’s phenomenal and that’s before you realize that at almost no point is Tig Notaro on set with any of the other cast.
Common sense is a thing and far too many of the characters in this don’t have it, which leads me to…
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Kate Ward. Whew, chile. Listen, I know at the time this movie was filmed Zack Snyder was just recovering from going through it and the kind of pain that no parent should ever have to deal with. Which is why the relationship between Scott and Kate Ward is such a focus in this movie, however… Kate is the worst. No disrespect to the actress, who is genuinely good in the part, but my gawd, her every dumb decision directly leads to the deaths of almost every other character.
‘All of these people have families that they want to get back to as well’ a line that is said directly to Kate yet she brushes this off even though she is putting the lives of her father, honorary uncle and aunt, and so many others, in danger because of her, admittedly unselfish, goals. It’s infuriating and that’s made even more annoying because she’s clearly coded as a character we’re supposed to root for but, when surrounded by far more interesting and well rounded characters, it just comes across as plot armor.
Between this and characters making things far more difficult than they need to be: Tanaka’s entire plan to get his hands on an Alpha for experimentation, the plot is a hot damn mess and is only saved by the fact that every single actor committed to the assignment they were given.
Then there’s that ending…
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One of the first things I said after watching this movie was, ‘Welp, they totally set up the sequel’ and apparently, I was right.
The reveal that Vanderohe had a: survived a nuclear strike because b: he was bit by Zeus and that allowed him to retain his humanity is c: just my kind of bonkers. That reveal had me cackling like no tomorrow and I’m here for it. There are just so many possibilities for where this could go and in the interest of SCIENCE! I will put a few of them here:
My first thought after the finale: Vanderohe will become the most hunted man on earth, with Tanaka leading the charge. Why? Because he is what the government was trying for with Zeus in the first place: an undead supersoldier who retains all of their mental and physical skills.
On the flip side, for those who actually give a damn about humanity, he’ll be the holy grail: somehow, via comic book science (of course), him getting bit right before getting irradiated by a nuclear warhead makes his blood the cure to the outbreak.
Another theory that I cannot take credit for but I’ve seen floated around and would also be very interesting: the entire next film will be from Vanderohe’s perspective which is something we rarely see. It was touched on in this film as we see that the Alphas have a society and emotions but an entire film from the POV of someone who is infected would be fascinating.
Overall Army of the Dead was a wild, fun ride, with great characters and banging special effects that gives Netflix the tentpole film franchise it’s always wanted. If you can ignore the nonsensical plot and just enjoy the insanity you’ll be down for a great time.
3.5 Chainsaws out of 5
PS: Look behind you!
But seriously watch out for the nods to Night of the Living Dead, especially in the very beginning and the very end and pay attention to the tattoos Vanderohe has…