Army of the Dead

Army of the Dead ★★★

I know I've been pretty down on Zack Snyder this year, having revisited his DC films in the lead up to the release of the Snyder Cut, and finding them all lacking. So it's a pleasant surprise to be able to say I actually quite enjoyed Army of the Dead, despite some baffling decisions and shortcomings.

The story is that a military convoy bearing cargo from Area 51 crashes in the Nevada desert, unleashing a horde of zombies on Las Vegas. The government acts quickly to seal them in with a massive wall of shipping containers. Some years later, the decision is made to nuke the entire site and wipe them out for good. With time running low, a gang of mercenaries led by former soldier Dave Bautista and helicopter pilot Tig Notaro are tasked with breaking into the city of the dead to steal $200 million from a vault beneath one of the casinos, and get out before the bomb falls.

As I mentioned at the top, there are some pretty strange decisions holding this back from being a better movie. I've never seen so many setups that never pay off, like allusions to aliens and time loops and robotic zombies, though I'm assured that with a prequel movie already in the can and an anime spinoff in development, these are genius pieces of W O R L D B U I L D I N G.

The other big issue is that Zack Snyder's greatest filmmaking asset is his ability to compose a shot. He's visually gifted. Which makes the decision to shoot the entire thing in ultra shallow focus, so it feels like a phone in portrait mode trying to find the object you want really baffling. It's like he's hobbling himself for no discernible reason, since there doesn't seem to be any thematic point to the backgrounds in nearly every shot being blurry and out of focus.

But, in spite of all that, this is a relatively fun zombie action flick. It's pretty predictable, especially if you've seen Aliens ever, but it never felt its length and I was never bored or unengaged. I like the take on zombies here; the more intelligent ones acting a bit like the vampires from 30 Days of Night, and standing out from the slower more traditional undead.

High art it ain't, but it'll do the job. And it's nice to see Zack Snyder get a win again.

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