When I sat down to watch Netlfix’s Army of the Dead, directed by Zack Snyder, I was not sure what to expect. It has been 17-years since the visionary director took on zombies, and after watching the 148-minute movie I can say it has been far too long.
Snyder’s direction shines through with his first feature length film since 2017’s Justice League. I am not counting the Snyder Cut as much of the footage was filmed prior to 2017. His pairing with Netflix is perfect. Netflix let Snyder be. Allowed him to build his world. Shoot the movie his way and it is B-E-A-utiful.
It was not until my second watch that I noticed how Zack Snyder, who was also the director of photography, used the depth of field for Army of the Dead to make the performances more personal and allows you to connect with the characters. No one should argue that Snyder has great visual taste and knows how to film a movie, albeit there are Snyder haters who will call this amateur. Snyder has worked the camera on many of his films and is not new to cinematography.
The cast that Snyder assembled for this movie is fantastic. Their chemistry feels genuinely authentic and, because of this, you connect with them. It is inevitable in this type of movie that a few people are not going to make it to the end, but other than one, you hope they all make it and there-in lies the magic these actors were able to capture.
The first 15-minutes of this film will suck you in as the mayhem is unleashed in Las Vegas in a brilliantly montaged sequence of bloody carnage as the city crumbles under the forming zombie horde. We also get introduced to a few of our main characters as they escape the carnage before the city is sealed off and the struggles they went through to get away.
Former bodybuilder and WWE superstar Dave Bautista is the lead in Army of the Dead and he puts his mark on the action star ladder. This is not his first film as a lead, but it is by far his best film as a lead. He recruits Ana de la Reguera’s Maria and Omari Hardwick’s Vanderohe before picking the rest of the team based on skillsets for the high-stakes casino heist orchestrated by Hiroyuki Sanada.
It is hard to pick a favourite character. I really enjoyed them all, but, if I had to pick, it would be safe cracker Ludwig Dieter who is brilliantly played by Matthias Schweighöfer. I am excited to see Army of Thieves, the prequel that is already in the works with Matthias replaying his role and directing based on a story from Snyder.
Rounding out the rest of the cast is Nora Arnezeder, Garret Dillahunt, Raúl Castillo, Samantha Win and Tig Notaro. Tig was the last to join this group as she was filmed after the fact to replace another actor who was removed due to a scandal. If I did not know that Zack and Deborah (his producer wife) had taken the time to not only recast the part with Tig, but also reshoot all the parts with her alone I would not believe you.
Netflix could take any of these main characters and spin them off into their own movies. A fantastic world has been created and where it goes, I will follow. Snyder and writers Joby Harold and Shay Hatten gave zombies a new twist. A twist I cannot wait to see what they do with as they move this new zombie world forward. I just hope we don’t get Army of the… burnout from it.
All that’s left to say is: it’s nice to see Snyder play again. Not be constrained by executives, ornery fan bases and expectations.
Welcome back Zack.