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Army of the Dead Review

Sometimes a one-man-army is not enough Mr. Snyder…

Army of the Dead
Netflix

After the success of the new Justice League iteration, Zack Snyder goes back to the roots of his career. It’s been 17 years since the release of “Dawn of the Dead”, a great zombie film that showed the world what Snyder was able to achieve as a first time director of a feature length film. In that production, Snyder had a script provided by the one and only Goerge A. Romero who worked together with James Gunn (mind behind Guardians Of the Galaxy), as well as experienced cinematographer Matthew F. Leonetti and many other talented cast and crew members. “Army of the Dead” brings forth quite an interesting combination of cliches and new elements to the overdone apocalyptic genre, showing a comprehensive understanding of what could be done in this territory. With the pieces in their place, this time it is up to Snyder to bring a thrilling adventure to Netflix since the flick is directed, produced, written and shot by Zack himself.    

The story takes place after a zombie outbreak in Las Vegas. Where a crew of mercenaries that live outside of the city, are hired to go back inside and steal a casino’s safe in the middle of the zombie infested zone. The premise generates an immediate interest thanks to the blend of the zombie trope with the typical conventions of a heist narrative. On top of that, the zombie aspect was expanded significantly with the addition of intelligent zombies (called alpha), a zombie tigger and even a zombie leader that wears a helmet to avoid mortal injuries. These elements should ensure a great violent ride of mindless action and fun; but sadly it doesn’t. The script takes time to set up a very large number of characters and elements that hardly ever come into play significantly, diluting most of the 2 first acts with chunks of expository dialog or secondary plot lines that almost never go anywhere. Characters besides Dave Bautista’s Scott, are really not worth mentioning. He is a complete package of emotional, badass dad with good intentions and bad memories. Bautista shines as the one character that the audience can get behind and support through the entire journey even if by the end that journey isn’t really memorable. Most of the two and a half hours of runtime are spent generating a piece of entertainment that keeps teasing the viewers with cool elements and possibilities that are never fully explored or that simply disappear in the cold mist of “Sequel plans” or “Fan theories”. 

Even if you try to move past the inconsistencies within the world building and character construction the script has, the pacing does not help. The two and a half hour runtime is filled with a simple 3 act structure that stops way too much in between each of them to flesh out those elements that rarely affect the main heist and leave most of the movie with a monotone feel. The rhythm is unequivocally flat up until the very end, making expository scenes, character moments and even deaths feel the same way. It is even more harmful when compared to the opening credits of the film, where the music sets a rhythm that helps tell a prologue story in just a couple of minutes, where every frame manages to transmit the emotion and impact that the rest of the movie is missing . This lack of impact can be also attributed to the film’s cinematography decisions. A shallow depth of field is implemented in order to get little focus range, leaving a wide portion of the image with a soft focus or no focus at all. This resource can be very stylish, as well as a nice tool to communicate certain emotions to the audience. The use of this doesn’t mean that the film looks bad. In regards to an aesthetic perspective, Snyder has always been a great director and this film is not an exception to that aspect; production design, costumes, make up, vfx are on point as usual. However, Snyder implements these lenses constantly without an actual necessity or even intent, turning it into a visual distraction. 

To conclude, Snyder’s return to the zombie realm leaves a sour impression. After an outstanding opening credit sequence, the film’s original presentation of a heist movie in the middle of a zombie epidemic seemed exciting. Unfortunately, the lack of narrative construction for characters and the misuse of  constant exposition appears; culminating in a dull story that couldn’t be saved by the pay off of the third act. Together with flat editing and poor aesthetic camera choices, the movie recieves the compliment of looking and sounding like a Zack Snyder film. Sadly, that same compliment transforms into a flaw when it comes to its storytelling. Let’s hope that future projects bring collaborations that end up in  a new dawn for the Snyder zombies.

Army of the Dead Review
Summary
Today Snyder brings to Netflix bright and interesting intentions and ideas that can’t seem to come fully to fruition. The story tries to mix heist and zombie films but ends up caught up in its own explanations about how everything works inside the infested Las Vegas. The third act brings some fun action to the table but it is not enough to compensate for the drag and lack of development of the overly long two and a half hour film.
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