Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead releases this Friday, May 14, in theaters, and will arrive on Netflix on May 21. Ahead of its release, ComingSoon.net’s Managing Editor Tyler Treese got the chance to talk with director Zack Snyder about his latest action flick. The film stars Dave Bautista as Scott Ward, a zombie-killing mercenary that decides to pull off a heist and tries to mend the relationship with his estranged daughter played by Ella Purnell.
Check out our Zack Snyder interview with the Army of the Dead director below to learn about the film’s incredible opening, the balancing act of humor and drama, and how it deconstructs the zombie genre.
Tyler Treese: Zack, I love the opening scene, the vignette, where all the characters are introduced. Can you talk me through your decision to go that route? Because there were some action scenes during that sequence that would be the culmination of a lot of films.
I did want to sort of shorthand this opening because I really wanted to get to [the fact that] these are veterans of a zombie war going back. Not newbies who just learned how to navigate it. I knew I needed to do that within the confines of this title sequence. That was really my philosophical approach. Then in design, it was really just creating the vignettes. I just felt like I wanted to just show intimate to big and then small to big, you know, it was really about the individual things that happened and then these like large scale things that happen. I just felt like it was super fun, even musically. It was fun to do. You know, how I feel about title sequences. Just fun.
As you mentioned, these are veterans. The film feels so fresh because it’s not taking place like during an outbreak, it’s completely contained. There are so many zombie films, do you feel like that aspect really helped it stand out with that and the heist motif?
Sure. I think that because I was really into this notion of sort of examining and sort of deconstructing genre with this movie and sort of understanding the tropes, and then designing the tropes to kind of stretch the movie to its edges, but then always trying to use sort of the humanity of the characters to bring it back down. So it was like constantly expanding and contracting based on sort of the emotional needs of the characters. I think that structure really kind of pushed aside whatever kind of normal, whatever you would call like a normal zombie structure because it did bring all these tropes, but it brought it more just from pure genre than from pure like zombie genre, just like whether it be Escape From New York or Planet of the Apes or Aliens. It was more of that kind of movie than a straight zombie movie. If that makes sense.
There’s such a contrast in moods. Army of the Dead is hilarious at some points, but it’s also very emotional and there are tender moments. Can you talk about that balancing act as a director?
Yeah. I think it’s all about sort of subverting expectations for what’s coming next. Also using the comedy just as kind of a little pressure release, you know, just kind of just keeping you from like overheating and then like, I would use the comedy to kind of let it come back down again. Like Mathias, is a great foil for that stuff because he’s kind of us in the movie, he’s kind of the not zombie expert in a sea of zombies. So it’s a hard balance, but I think that I love that sort of self-aware quality and it’s hard to pull it off exactly without having really good actors and really solid sort of trauma at its heart to kind of keep you hooked in.
I love that there’s a class system with the zombies because it gives the film a clear antagonist. What led you to that decision and to have that big bad guy at the end?
Yeah. I love that. I always liked the idea of a king zombie or Zeus zombie. I just think that’s a really kind of incredible reveal that there are all these sorts of zombies, but no, there’s one in particular that you don’t want to come across. It’s like the most instinctive and it’s kind of basic to the way we feel, but it hasn’t really been explored that deeply in this genre and even Athena [Perample], who plays the queen, she’s amazing. She does an amazing job.