Army of the Dead

Army of the Dead ★★★½

The stoic, Greco-Roman view of time, seeing life as cyclical and seasonal, is throttled here by Snyder, who I’m certain is commenting on his own creative trauma. I’ve no doubt that his experiences on Justice League damaged him in some serious capacity, and the subsequent climactic triumph with the cathartic release of his own cut, rallied on by the supporters, does today indeed feel like the closing, victorious chapter to a particular portion of his career. Now, though, with Army of the Dead, we’ve got a new Zack Snyder. Digital, yet organic, deeply ensconced in a blur of interesting focal work, bridging the gap with Justice League’s apocalyptic epilogue in both form and text, yet also firmly hitting the reset button. That’s precisely what this feels like, too, in the end. A reset button. Zack Snyder Phase 2. And whereas Phase 1 began all the way back in 2004 with an equally entertaining, yet ultimately trite zombie film, it only makes sense that modern cinema’s best stoic would mark the beginning of his rebirth with the exact same experience, set to a much larger scale.

I don’t want to give too much away. It’s mostly a lot of fun. Zombie Elvis, horrifically realistic zombie tiger attacks, Dave Bautista’s massive muscles powerlifting his eventual Oscar nomination (not for this, but it will happen soon), a funny little safe-cracking German who steals the show, lots of inventive blood and gore — it’s crazy how humans continue to keep finding cool and new ways to explore our insides — and, of course, we get to hear some Wagner along the way. There’s also a villain zombie in a mask and a cape that’s equal parts terrifying in his sheer strength and potent in metatextual substance (superheroes are dead now, at least to Snyder). But, sorry to say, it’s an all-in-all tough sell with such a ragtag script of ruffled characters. Motivation is key in building tension, and most of the motivations here are way too emotionally stagnant, if not just downright cumbersome, to muster depth. But really, I’m just so tired of stupid characters doing stupid things. Ya know, the thing I’ve come to admire about Ridley Scott’s stupid characters, a la Prometheus or Covenant, is that there’s an intentional, auteurist misanthropy to their stupidity and it works in the end, with a wonderful appeal to a great, vulgar pessimism. Zack Snyder isn’t there yet. He’s too pure. So, unfortunately, there’s no good excuse for his stupid characters.

Either way, very excited to see what’s in store for this “new” Snyder style.

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