Per Matt
Army of the Dead has brought a lot of anticipation for horror fans who have wanted to see some new blood injected into the Zombie subgenre (even though Zack Snyder previously directed the great Dawn of the Dead remake), as well as those who don’t necessarily care for dark comic book tales. I have been looking forward to watching Army of the Dead long before I knew anything about The Snyder Cut, and I wasn’t let down after finally watching the feature film.

Army marks Snyder’s (temporary?) departure from superheroes and a rightful return to the horror genre, which seems to fit the filmmaker like a glove. In this tale, a group of mercenaries become the equivalent of modern-day treasure hunters, as they gamble with their lives for a share of $200 million that’s located deep within a casino safe. To make matters worse, it all takes place within a walled-off Las Vegas, which houses hordes of Zombies. It’s a race against time, but when the shit really hits the fan, the group discovers it has an even shorter timeframe for the deed than the initially planned-on 32 hours that were allotted.

Only in the movies does anybody ever say, “If you coordinate and communicate, it should be a simple in and out…”

Dave Bautista leads this ragtag group and Fear the Walking Dead‘s loss is Army‘s gain, as Garret Dillahunt brings a great presence to the storyline, even if Tig Notaro gets many of the laughs. Each character brings an individual specialty to the table, while all dreaming of ways to spend the money long before actually getting their hands on it. It’s always so close, but yet so far for these antiheroes, who are easy to root for, but bad things always seem to head their way. Just like they mention early in the storyline, what did helping out so many people really get them?

The Zombie Apocalypse meets a quarantined Vegas Strip with a ticking bomb prepared to explode. Killer concept. I love it.

Shamblers dry out in the sun, briefly reanimating in the rain, but they also hibernate. Alphas rule, being smarter, faster and more organized than the rest. These monsters don’t feel like anything previously created by George Romero, but the recently deceased filmmaker’s fingerprints are all over it. Death and rebirth are discussed, while fighting and dying within an infinite loop exists with a puppet master pulling the strings. Again, killer concept. I love it.

Bautista doesn’t have too much responsibility as the lead of this ensemble, and that’s a good thing. We have previously discussed his past projects (My Spy Proves That Dave Bautista Is No Arnold Schwarzenegger), but he does a great job here, leading his crew. Snyder used him well in this film. Maybe Bautista will turn into Snyder’s muse for future projects.

In this Snyderverse, an undead horse and a Zombie tiger aren’t out of the realm of possibilities, accentuating the craziness of it all (which I liked, BTW). And what kind of heist film would this be without some booby traps along the way? Netflix gave the green light for this movie’s $70 million budget and I’m pretty sure Snyder wouldn’t have accepted it without demanding a hands-off policy by the streamer’s execs. At times it felt like the filmmaker threw many plot devices onto a dartboard and added each one into the script that he hit, just because he could. But I was mostly thrilled by the ease of the levity he allowed into the final print.

Past concerns were raised before watching the film (Life After Superheroes: Does Zack Snyder Need a Career Reboot?), but there are actually some random funny moments inserted into the script, which I had never seen in Snyder’s past works. This kind of final product is what Warner Bros. COULD have had with their DC Extended Universe, had they only allowed the filmmaker a little more authority.

The groundwork that’s laid out for this film might actually bring some great spin-offs to Netflix. There could be enough loose ends available for a sequel or two, but I’m completely satisfied with Army‘s conclusion and Snyder moving onto other genres that interest him. Instead, it looks like there could be a number of prequels in development.

This was not the first team of scavengers requested by the casino’s owner to attempt grand larceny onto his own property. That, in itself, could be another great film.

Another option involves the mere mention of “Zombie Wars,” which required a re-watch of the scene to fully grasp the concept. Could this be something similar to what Lucasfilm did when “The Clone Wars” were first mentioned in the original trilogy? Possibly, but it looks like an animated series is already underway (Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas). While I don’t really know what that will entail, I’d rather see something from the military’s point of view, bridging the soldiers’ discussion at the beginning of the film to Area 51.

Army of the Dead is a redemption for sorts for both Snyder and Bautista. This film proves that given the right material and oversight, it’s possible to get a great final product. And by the looks of things, a great franchise seems to be born.

“It’s not the meat, it’s the heat…”