Army of the Dead (2021)

It’s no big secret how I felt and continue to feel about Zack Snyder’s previous zombie outing, and it’s not going to be a big surprise when I say that “Army of the Dead” stinks. A movie like this is virtually critic proof as it wears its silliness on its sleeves and flaunts it unabashedly to the very end. This is the zombie movie for the audience that grew up with “Left 4 Dead” or “Dead Rising 2” as their original introduction to the walking dead, and Snyder knows his audience. He even introduces our core cast like player profiles, even giving them signature weapons.

Following a zombie outbreak that has left Las Vegas in ruins and walled off from the rest of the world, Scott Ward (Dave Bautista), a displaced Vegas local, former zombie war hero is approached by casino boss Bly Tanaka with the ultimate proposition: Break into the zombie-infested quarantine zone to retrieve $200 million sitting in a vault before the city is nuked by the government in 32 hours. Ward assembles a ragtag team of experts for the heist, and with a ticking clock, and a smarter, faster horde of Alpha zombies closing in, only one thing’s for certain in the greatest heist ever attempted: survivors take all.

“Army of the Dead” is that movie for the generation that grew up playing war video games where they mow down zombies. Everyone presented are pretty much just cannon fodder and feel like sentient avatars for a video game. If you can appreciate broad characters that are so vaguely drawn, you’ll impulsively reach for your controllers, “Army of the Dead” serves its purpose. There’s not a lot of characterization with the cast other than the mere pittances that Snyder throws us here and there. There’s a flashback here and there, but nothing that ever draws us in emotionally. “Army of the Dead” watches like one two and a half hour cut scene that drones on after the first hour.

After the first two zombie rampages involving sprinting flesh eaters, I was just about mentally checking out, so it’s disheartening that Snyder gives us over two hours of this junk. With Netflix, Snyder is able to do what he wants here and goes hog wild with massive gore, and playing the zombies toward his own imagination. We know nothing about the zombie virus that begins the apocalypse, nor their weaknesses, the origin of the disease, or why they crave flesh. All we know is that a head shot kills them and a bite turns you. This gives Snyder a sandbox to follow his own rules and, well, not even really try most times. The rules for Snyder’s zombies are painfully uneven, all the while he borrows from everything including “Zombieland,” “Remains” and even “Aliens.”

Everything here I’ve seen a thousand times on basic cable from low tier companies like Asylum and it sinks in to endless repetition and predictability. There’s really nothing wrong with that formula, but I just wish “Army of the Dead” offered something to keep my attention and endure the monotony; at least lean in to the heist element much more (That’s an aspect forgotten by the second hour mark). “Army of the Dead” is a lousy film from top to bottom that doesn’t re-invent the sub-genre and doesn’t even want to at the end of the day.

I can safely say I’m preemptively skipping the inevitable sequel.

Now in Limited Release and Streaming Exclusively on Netflix.