At long last, Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead has finally landed on Netflix in all its crazy glory. I got a chance to watch the film in theaters last week and can confirm the maestro’s madness is on full display in this glorious, intense zombie horror/action-packed heist flick. You got robot zombies for cripes sakes!
There were so many things I loved about this flick, but I managed to narrow my list down to five. So, without further ado, here are the top five things I loved about Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead! Obviously, spoilers apply, so watch the movie before reading any further.
The Weird Factor
Look, Army of the Dead is the type of weird movie only Zack Snyder could create. Rather than give us a straight-forward zombie flick, or a heist film for that matter, Snyder goes in any number of crazy directions to keep audiences on their toes. Disappointment awaits those expecting a typical George A. Romero-styled horror film, ala 2004’s Dawn of the Dead. AOTD is much stranger than anyone had a right to expect.
I mean that in a good way.
Right from the get-go, the weird factor kicks in by way of a military caravan transporting cargo from Area 51. The soldiers inside exchange small talk relating to the Top Secret item in their possession, which one suggests might be extraterrestrial in nature, considering its place of origin. Wait, what? There’s even a blink and you’ll miss it shot of what appears to be two UFOs taking off in the distance! (I didn’t notice the first time because who the hell looks for aliens in a zombie flick?)
Later, Zeus, the King Zombie, holds a small baby zombie — ripped from the abdomen of his decapitated queen — that glows a bluish color before eventually dying out — what?!
If that weren’t bizarre enough, the film even introduces the notion of robot zombies, while the philosophical Vanderohe waxes poetic about time travel.
I have no idea what any of this means or if it’s leading to anything particularly novel, but such details are intriguing bits that hint at a much larger AOTD universe than originally imagined.
Everyone in this film rocks. So much so that you hate to see any of them die. Naturally, because it’s a Zack Snyder movie, they all do — or do they? I dunno. All I know is that everyone from Dave Bautista’s badass-with-a-heart-of-gold Scott Ward to Nora Arnezeder’s Lilly “The Coyote” gets an opportunity to do their thing. Though, MVP most definitely belongs to Vanderohe and Dieter, as played by Omari Hardwick and Matthias Schweighöfer, whose budding friendship results in one of the more unlikely emotional death scenes in recent memory.
As stated above, Vanderohe definitely drops some hints at an “infinite loop of fighting and dying” when gazing upon a group of skeletons — remnants of the previous team — that bear a remarkable resemblance to their own crew right down to the key necklace worn by Maria. Is this all simply intended as a meta-commentary regarding the very nature of zombie films that seemingly have no end — “I’m caught in a trap, I can’t walk out, because I love you too much baby,” Elvis Presley proclaims over the end credits — or is there a greater force at play here?
At any rate, if there are sequels, I would happily welcome the return of everyone introduced in AOTD, mostly because it feels like we just barely scratched the surface of their potential.
Snyder has a blast recreating scenes from classic films, notably An American Werewolf in London, Escape From New York, and Planet of the Apes. Yet, he seems to tap into James Cameron’s Aliens more than any other either by way of dialogue — “You don’t see them f—ing each other over!” — or action beats, notably the entire climax revolving a helicopter and a father’s desperate attempt to save his daughter before a nuke destroys all of Las Vegas.
It’s all in good fun, even if some of it felt a little too on the nose.
Army of the Dead Subverts Expectations
The biggest surprise about AOTD was how different it turned out to be compared to those whacky, pink neon-lit trailers. Make no mistake, this is a wild film, but it’s also very dramatic and surprisingly emotional. And while there is action, it’s not presented in a glorified, Michael Bay style. Instead, Snyder focuses squarely on his characters and what happens to them as a result of the chaos; and the flick is all the better for it.
Snyder explained how he wanted to subvert expectations and the marketing no doubt played a hand in his deception. AOTD has aliens, robots, and all manner of nutty shenanigans, but it’s still very much a dark and brooding drama punctuated by moments of extreme violence.
In other words: a Zack Snyder film.
The King Zombie
By far the best aspect of Army of the Dead is Zeus, the rock star king who has set up shop at a casino where he presides over all the zombies. While beastly in the traditional sense, Zeus also displays quite a few emotions for a walker. The entire climax kicks off due to his anger over losing his queen and child, and he’s actually moral enough to accept and honor offerings as a means of passage into their kingdom.
Questions about his character linger. Was Zeus intending to build an army to eventually take over the planet or was the big guy simply trying to start his own zombie family? And who will lead the rabble in Mexico City now that he’s gone? Is Snyder setting Vanderohe up as the next king? Or will the next iteration of zombies follow the more traditional mindless walking dead flesh-eaters?
Hopefully, we’ll get some answers in a sequel or sequels sometime in the future. Until then, let’s just sit back and appreciate Zeus, a formidable zombie warrior possessing enough marketing sense to wear a superhero costume replete with cape and bullet-proof mask into battle. Hey, it looks friggin’ cool!