Zack Snyder’s follow up to his 2004 zombie-horror classic Dawn of the Dead promised a refreshing take on the classic genre. While, canonically, Army of the Dead is not a sequel to Dawn, Snyder’s distinct visual and tonal style prove that Zack Snyder himself is his own franchise.
Army of the Dead answers multiple questions in the very long and oddly specific list of zombie apocalypse scenarios that sci-fi nerds have been postulating for decades. What would happen if the government contained the outbreak to a single city? What would happen if the zombies formed a monarchy? What happens to all the animals during an outbreak? All these questions and more are answered in this film.
The story starts at the very beginning of the outbreak when a former resident of Area 51 makes its way into Las Vegas. The feeding frenzy begins in a classic Snyder slow motion montage that concludes with the government containing the outbreak to a walled off city, leaving the zombies to run amuck. The main story picks up years later when a team of specialists are recruited to perform a heist to recover the casino fortunes that lie beneath Las Vegas.
The ensemble cast led by Dave Bautista brings their all to create a spectacular addition to zombie mythology that more than lives up to the standards of its predecessors. The plot of the film is as good as it needs to be. Snyder is famous for prioritizing flash over substance and never being able to strike the perfect balance to create a fantastic story, but with Army of the Dead, Snyder at least tries to elevate the story and the worldbuilding more than his other projects. This will benefit this film if it ever gets blessed with a franchise.
Snyder injects Army of the Dead with enough mythology to invest you in the story without getting too attached to the red shirts that plague the film. The film would have benefited from at least a trilogy commitment from Netflix, but Snyder does his best to balance Army of the Dead as a standalone film while also setting up plot threads to be explored in future instalments.
The cast features a several standouts. Dave Bautista does a serviceable job with his acting but shines as an action star (as he always does.) Tig Nataro does a phenomenal job taking over for Chris D’Elia as a genderblind helicopter pilot. D’Elia was digitally replaced in the film after a series of misconduct allegations, which you would never know otherwise because the phenomenal VFX team seamlessly insert Nataro in his place. The rest of the cast does a fine job, but Snyder never lets you care too much about any one character because of the volatile situation they are thrown into.
Overall, Army of the Dead is exactly the kind of mindless visual spectacle that we’ve been missing. Snyder fans will surely enjoy every detail while general blockbuster audiences aren’t disappointed by its astronomical entertainment value. If you’re seeking a fun, turn your brain off movie night, go ahead and stream Army of the Dead on Netflix.
Filmnetic Grade: A-