Army of the Dead

Army of the Dead ★★½

Ahoy! There be spoilers ahead!

Back in Catholic grade school, the nuns would always say, "Check your work! Check your work!" but I never checked my work. I'd race through a math test as quickly as possible and then get it back days later marked up with errors that could have been easily avoided if I weren't such an arrogant little shit trying to wave his gigundo mathematical-skills phallus around the Corpus Christi fourth grade classroom like Fassbender in Shame.

Well, let me tell you... nobody—and I mean nobody—bothered to check Army of the Dead's work, riddled as it is with plot holes, implausibilities, and even major issues with the raison d'être for the film's central heist.

I knew Army of the Dead was in serious trouble in the logic department when early in the movie two army soldiers run into the desert to flee from an escaped zombie instead of taking the Humvee they were just driving.

This fugitive zombie manages to initiate a chain reaction of zombie infections that leaves Las Vegas an abandoned quarantine zone. This leads the clearly evil businessman Bly Tanaka (Bly Tanaka?) to assemble a mercenary team to retrieve the loot in his casino before Vegas is nuked by the government in a few days.

Only... we learn much later in the film that Tanaka really doesn't care about the money. He just wants the head of a zombie in order to create a zombie army for the government, which would then be worth far more than the money in the vault. Considering how easy it ultimately was to get the head of a zombie and how difficult it was to get the money, it's anybody's guess why he developed such an elaborate ruse. All he really needed was Lily—the resident expert in zombie culture—and even if he couldn't have gotten Lily to participate because of her moral reservations, we see that some of the mercenaries were willing to go into Vegas for a paltry twenty grand. Why not just give them a try? Why all this subterfuge?

Meanwhile, Dave Bautista's character Scott Ward has an impossibly noble and righteous daughter Kate who's determined to go into Vegas to locate a woman named Geeta, an internee at the quarantine camp she volunteered at. (Can anyone tell me why Geeta wanted to get into Las Vegas in the first place? I missed the explanation for that, if there even was one.) So... Kate desperately wants to rescue Geeta even though she has no idea if Geeta is alive or dead or where she might be in a city filled with zombies... but at the end of the movie Geeta—the ostensible reason for Kate's narrative journey—is entirely forgotten. I don't even know when she died or if she died. In the helicopter? Kate didn't look for her. She's all like, "Geeta? I don't know her."

I really didn't like Kate at all, which was a big problem for me considering that she was supposed to be such a good, heroic character and that the mending of her fraught relationship with her father should have been a big emotional beat in the story. Kate is a giant nothing. She goes through the motions of goodness without actually seeming good. Her beef with her dad seems vague but at the same time harsh. Her mission to rescue Geeta is just plain dumb (because of how unlikely it is that the latter survived) and puts other people in danger. Kate's a jerk in sheep's clothing, in my opinion.

Also: When Dieter locked Vanderohe in the safe before an imminent nuclear blast, I was wondering for a while whether Dieter was actually evil but now I understand he was "saving" Vanderohe, which worked out in the movie but surely wouldn't have worked out in real life. I'm also not sure why Vanderohe wouldn't have quickly died from radiation at ground zero, but I'll let that one slide... What I won't let slide, however, is one of my bugaboos with zombie flicks: I hate how they constantly vary the interval between being bitten and turning as it suits the story. Bautista was zombified in minutes, but Vanderohe has time to escape Vegas, rent a plane, drink champagne, and then go to the bathroom. And he is still not showing any effects!

I'm not done yet.

I also really hated a lot of the sad attempts at humor... like the "easy-peasy Japanese-y" bit... (groan)... Now I realize why BvS was so fucking somber. Humor just isn't Zack's wheelhouse.

But now... stand back... I'm gonna give you whiplash...

Despite all this, I actually had a not-bad time watching it. You may see my two-and-a-half stars and interpret that as relative dislike, but two-and-a-half is very much a middle-of-the-road, mixed bag rating for me. I thought the concept of a heist in zombie town was pretty great, but I wish the film had had a little more fun with it. (Like the movie art implies.) I also wish somebody, as per Sister Geraldine's admonition, had thoroughly checked the screenplay's work before it had gone into production. While I enjoyed parts of the movie, the fundamental needlessness of the plot undermined that enjoyment and left me feeling major ambivalence.

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