Army of the Dead

Army of the Dead ★★★

The middle stretch in Army of the Dead could well be Zack Snyder's best work. Though this film is not a masterpiece in totality. At times Army of the Dead is a complete failure, but there are enough outstanding moments to keep everything afloat. It's a semi-respectable mess, but after years in the superhero wilderness it's nice to see Snyder working on a smaller scale again, with something a bit more stripped back. I've always preferred zombies to superheroes anyway, so maybe I'm biased, but Army of the Dead is easily one of Snyder's best films.

Army of the Dead does not open well however. The opening scene is ridiculous, filled with bad shots, a flat look, silly dialogue, unclear editing, and questionable CGI. In fact the entire first act is sluggish and generally poor. The film only picks up once the characters enter the city of the zombies. The concept of a zombie heist movie is a fun one and Army of the Dead delivers entertainment. Snyder's chief failing as a director is often that he is too overdramatic and pretentious for his dumb plotting. Sometimes Army of the Dead has this issue too, particularly in the emotional scenes which often fall flat. Yet Army of the Dead is mostly shallow and stupid in an open way, and that plays better. There's even some comedy, though I would consider the results mixed since I didn't laugh but the gags are enjoyable. There are some thin allusions to politics, but they remain unsubstantial. Snyder is still not a deep filmmaker, and I personally don't buy the praise which proclaims that he is.

Army of the Dead is ragtag film. It's very long and very dumb. The twists are sometimes good and sometimes bad. The shots shift focus a lot, which is cool in concept but probably over-used across the runtime. The gore is done well, but has no weight or horror since it's so ridiculous and constant. There's a lot of characters, so it's hard to invest in all of them. There's also a lot of explosions and shooting, because Army of the Dead functions more as an action film than anything else. The zombies are action movie fighters rather than horror villains, meaning the heroes are thrown around like ragdolls, in typical Snyder fashion. Like Man of Steel, the third act becomes an endless action sequence. Aliens is a clear inspiration here, taking a horror concept and then sending characters into a confined location for action thrills. There's also a nod to Apocalypse Now, though any comparison makes Army of the Dead look worse. A feature of Army of the Dead that is pretty good however is the depiction of sensual zombies, giving them feelings and personalities. It's actually a well-executed thematic idea, quite rare for a Snyder film.

Army of the Dead is a giant effort that wears its inspirations openly. It is executed well and overall really entertaining. There are so many criticisms to be had, from repetitive action scenes to clunky character work to brainless plotting, but as a whole Army of the Dead succeeds. There were many times I groaned and sighed watching this film, but there are other sections which are magnificent. It may be inconsistent, but the highs are very high. Just a shame the lows are so low.

Side-note: There was a perfect ending to Army of the Dead, then it dropped a stinker of a final scene. Honestly so clunky and undercut everything a lot, especially as it might just be sequel bait. Good chance I'd have liked it a lot more without that scene.

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