It's been quite the ride watching Zack Snyder's career unfold. He's one of those guys where I have very much been a cheerleader and I have very much been a dissenter. I can't say that he's one of my favorite filmmakers of all time or at all. I think he's said some pretty freaking bizarre things in the press. But at the same time, I'd be a liar if I said I hated all of his films. There are movies of his I very much love, even when it seemed like the rest of the world did not. Anytime you hear the guy say awesome at a junket or a convention or an interview, you're in for some type of treat. He likes making big bags of awesome. He's the guy that throws everything including the kitchen sink at you, and that kitchen sink has another kitchen sink stuck inside of it somehow. But he tries for emotional payoff and social/political metaphor as well, which makes his films a wee bit more exciting compared to someone like Michael Bay or Joe Carnahan.
"Dawn of the Dead" from 2004 was one of those rare remakes that I actually like a lot, so I thought it would be fun for Snyder to return to the realm of zombies. If you've seen trailers for "Army of the Dead," you know what you're in for. It's a simple, straightforward plot. A zombie outbreak occurs in Las Vegas, and wouldn't you know, our government gets a grip on it before it overruns the country. Las Vegas is completely walled off from the rest of the world, trapping the zombies inside. A businessman hires a crew to retrieve $250 million from one of his casinos, money that has already been declared lost and covered by insurance. A crew is hired and they go in. Of course this being a heist film as well, the businessman isn't really concerned about the money and the heist is actually about something else entirely.
It's a simple story, but simple doesn't mean bad. As far as zombies go, this is original and ambitious and unlike the typical "survivors survive during a zombie apocalypse." Something we've seen done to death by this point. The film features several Snyder touches. You know this is a Snyder movie without knowing his name was on it. Much like "Dawn of the Dead" and "Watchmen," "Army of the Dead" features a bombastic, hilarious opening credits sequence. Essentially a mini movie explaining how Las Vegas became the zombie wasteland it is in this film. While I would argue that "Dawn of the Dead" and Watchmen's" opening credits are better, "Army of the Dead" comes pretty close.
"Army of the Dead" is full of actors I have lots of admiration for. I think Dave Bautista is an excellent lead here, and he's been revving up for this kind of role for awhile now. There's people like Omari Hardwick, Hiroyuki Sanada, Garrett Dillahunt, Theo Rossi, and Raul Castillo that I like. There's actors I'm not as familiar with like Ella Purnell, Ana de la Reguera, and Nora Arnezeder who are all fine. That's it, though. They're fine. While all of these actors are good and they bring more charm to this film that a bunch of no-namers couldn't, they are still playing types. There isn't enough development for any of them to really make me care about them as characters, but enough charm there that I root for a good ending?
One actress in particular sticks out, and that's Tig Notaro as the pilot the crew needs to fly them out of the city once they get the payload. She's terrific, better than she needed to be. I'd love about 50 spin-off movies of just her and she doesn't even need to be fighting zombies. She really sticks out here, breathing life into a thankless, rather one-dimensional character. She's simply terrific.
Its a little weird to me that I find the zombies in this movie more appealing that the humans, but I have to be honest. In this story, the zombies evolve and some become Alphas; zombies that are smart and can move differently and can fight. Again, this isn't the typical zombie movie and they pose more of threat to the humans to make the stakes higher. Also, yes, the zombie tiger gets some good material here, it's a very good zombie kitty.
If you are going to get all uptight over Snyder "ripping off" someone, please forget it. Snyder is paying tribute to several horror filmmakers here. Again, Snyder is the guy with the kitchen sink, but I think its fun how he pays homage to the great horror filmmakers in history while also making something that is clearly his own.
You can also bet that Zack Snyder used The Cranberries song in this. Yes, THAT Cranberries song. He's Zack Snyder making a zombie movie, of course he used that song.
"Army of the Dead" isn't a perfect film by any stretch of the mind, but it's certainly fun. It's a ton of fun. After a decade of making several hapless, grimdark superhero movies. After a decade of being manhandled and misunderstood by Warner Brothers. I say forget #RestoreTheSnyderverse. Seriously, forget it. I'd rather Snyder make movies like "Army of the Dead." This is Snyder straight from the tap, and we are all richer for it.