Zack Snyder’s “Dawn of the Dead” from 2004 is one of the finest horror remakes.
His latest zombie genre attempt doesn’t reach that quality, unfortunately.
In “Army of the Dead,” an accident involving military vehicles driving away from Area 51 ends up unleashing a zombie plague on the city of Las Vegas. After an extensive effort to fight the threat, the city is eventually walled off and the zombies are contained.
A plan is ordered to hit the city with a nuclear strike and eliminate the threat. However, before that happens, a soldier named Scott (Dave Bautista) is tasked with entering the city and retrieving money from a safe by a rich businessman. Scott puts together a team of mercenaries to do so, with the promise of getting millions of dollars. However, he also agrees to take his daughter Kate (Ella Purnell) into the city as she’s looking for her lost friend.
“Army of the Dead” starts with some promise, and certainly has a fun premise, but problems arise when the ball gets rolling, and they keep popping up. Probably the biggest issue, though, is the excessive runtime.
“Suicide Squad” goes two hours, 2010’s “The Expendables” lasts for an hour and 40 minutes. This mercenary feature goes for a whole two hours and 30 minutes, yet it doesn’t have enough in the narrative tank to warrant such a runtime.
Another issue is how the movie’s tone often shifts. At times, the movie is an over-the-top, fun action fest, and at others it takes a turn toward a more serious approach. This is especially noticeable with Scott and Kate’s relationship and the latter’s anger over how the government handled the situation. There’s simply a lack of balance.
Snyder’s film also introduces a bit of social commentary regarding how the United States holds immigrants at the southern border. The commentary feels underdeveloped and ill-fitted into this picture.
Another gripe comes in the form of the zombies themselves. Admittedly, this is more of a personal preference. When the team enters Vegas, they soon learn that some of the zombies have sort of evolved to have somewhat of a society.
The zombies have a leader, that leader has a queen, and they have a sort of hunter/gatherer civilization going on. This really undercuts what works about zombies.
In many zombie films, including Snyder’s own “Dawn of the Dead,” the zombies are almost like a force of nature.
They’re not thinking monsters, they’re just a large, collective deadly force. It’s almost like an undead tidal wave that washes over. It’s the inescapability and the seemingly never-ending waves that really make things work.
Introducing this evolved-zombie element doesn’t really make the movie any more scary or exciting. I appreciate trying something different, but this take was a miss.
The film really fumbles when it comes to the ending, too. On top of characters making some nonsensical choices, one of Kate’s main motivations for doing this mission doesn’t really have a resolution. Then, when the credits should roll, the movie tacks several more scenes just for a sequel setup.
Snyder’s script falls short, too. There’s a lack of wit in the humor and several lapses in logic, too. It’s a real detriment to several of the characters as well, who seem under-written.
Even Scott, the leader, seems dull and Bautista doesn’t carry the same charisma others in the genre bring to the table. The supporting characters each have their own quirks, but only a few stand out.
As for the action, I wished it was a little more creative. There was a standout moment with a zombie tiger, but this needed more. This is Vegas, have a zombie get stabbed with a slot machine lever or that stick from a craps table. More of that kind of action could have really made this fun.
“Amy of the Dead” could’ve been a fun zombie fest but there wasn’t much working right. 2.25 out of 5.