The 400-Word Review: Army of the Dead
By Sean Collier
May 20, 2021
You’ve gotta work pretty hard to sour me on a movie with a zombie white tiger. I’m pretty sure that any movie that introduced a zombie white tiger would immediately vault to the upper tier of my rankings.
Yet Zack Snyder’s “Army of the Dead,” despite an undeniably great premise and plenty of meaty undead action, is so determined to be a bloated, shambling mess that I don’t know how I feel about it. Can I possibly give bad marks to a movie that features a zombie white tiger? And who am I if I do?
I may be someone that cares about narrative structure and development, because the lowliest one-legged ghoul in this bloodbath possesses more grace than the script. Snyder co-wrote the screenplay (with Shay Hatten and Joby Harold) and has stuffed it with his hallmarks — both the good ones (epic scale, comic-influenced scenarios) and the bad ones (constantly killing or imperiling female characters to motivate male characters, sheer length).
The should-be-simple logline: It’s a heist movie in an abandoned, zombie-infested Las Vegas. A financier pays a team of mercenaries, led by undead-fighting veteran Scott Ward (Dave Bautista), to break into an abandoned casino vault; they’ve got a ticking clock, as the government has decided to nuke the city to wipe out the remaining hordes.
You’d think the combined forces of getting money and not dying would be enough to keep our characters invested, but nope; this is a Snyder movie, so every character needs to suffer endless hardships relating to wives, mothers and daughters. Ward alone goes through at least four, including two slaughtered romantic partners.
Even the leader of the zombies (yes, they have a loose confederacy) isn’t exempt. While the motivation of the undead is usually straightforward — they’re rather fond of eating people — this guy is mad because the good guys killed his zombie girlfriend. Who was pregnant with a zombie baby. (No, there’s never any explanation of ... any of this.)
The action is great, and aspects of the heist structure work. The cast performs capably, particularly late addition Tig Notaro as a salty chopper pilot. Unfortunately, “Army of the Dead” is also ironclad proof that Snyder should be reined in; left to his own devices, he will happily sink his own ship.
Yup. A movie with a well-deployed zombie white tiger, and I can’t go above “meh.” It’s a sad day.
My Rating: 5/10
“Army of the Dead” is streaming on Netflix.