The Dark Herald Recommends: Army of the DeadThe Dark Herald
The one character that I really wanted to die, didn’t.
That sums up this movie in a nutshell.
Army of the Dead is a tragic film and by that, I don’t mean that it is a Tragedy. I mean there was a good script here at one time and it’s tragic what the studio did to it.
This isn’t Snyder’s first foray into zombie movies. That was Dawn of the Dead (2004), it was about a group of people that have to hold up in a mall during the zombie apocalypse. It was decent enough as such things go and can be credited with having started the Zombie mania that has been going on for the last fifteen or so years. It had elements that were reasonably innovative in a genre that does not willingly accept innovation.
Army of the Dead was meant to be dumb fun but they completely lost sight of this during a rewriting process that left the film hopelessly Woke-washed. My faith in all Woke writing being slimy, odious, oily garbage has been restored by this movie. Shadow and Bone was obviously an aberration.
Here is a rough overview of the plot.
In the opening scene, a military convoy leaves what is hinted at being the Groom Lake Test Facility, (AKA Area 51). The driver and A-driver are joking about all the unlikely things they could be transporting. This reminiscent of the start of Return of the Living Dead, so it’s a nice callback. The driver’s dialog is intercut with scenes of a white trash couple on their honeymoon. The wife starts giving her husband a blowjob while he is driving, and you are already seeing where this is going and you’re right. The sex-addled newlyweds crash into the military truck releasing what was inside. Which turned out to be the super-zombie, Zeus.
Zeus kills and turns the soldiers in the convey, then they attack Las Vegas together. During the opening credits, we get to see a Zack Snyder montage of Las Vegas falling to the zombies. We see Dave Bautista’s wife getting turned and he had to kill her which really bothers him up and leaves his idiot bitch of a daughter mad at him. I don’t like Bautista, but I’ll give credit where it’s due, he’s a better actor than Arnold Schwarzenegger ever was. We also see a few members of his crew. Montage ends with Las Vegas being walled off.
It was a pretty good start to a Zombie movie, and I liked the variation on the theme of “overnight, the entire world fell to the undead horde,” it’s just one city and the problem is successfully contained. It’s slightly more reasonable, (for values of reasonable), fluid to fluid is about the worst transmission vector there is and none of the undead is going to be capable of operating a car. If they turn on an airplane, they are to crash the plane. Containment isn’t just possible, it’s likely.
The movie starts and we immediately run into the Woke rewrite. There is an internment camp on the outskirts of Las Vegas where diverse illegal immigrants are being held by the Orange Man for his sadistic amusement. Or the general bigotry of all White people or some other badly defined reason. This subplot absolutely feels tacked on. I would bet that half the reason this movie got dumped on Netflix instead of getting a theatrical release is because Trump isn’t the president anymore, all of the “clapper material,” is landing with a hollow thud. Trump jokes are as funny as Bush jokes in 2021, so half the film feels dated. Anyway, there is a racist guard that sexually abuses the women in the compound and there is also a “Coyote” who is a pretty hot French woman, that sneaks people into Vegas to loot slot machines. Which is not at all what a Coyote is or does but some Woketard at the studio wanted the word inserted. A flaming SJW who is the daughter of Dave Bautista’s character, “volunteers” in the compound and is friends with one of the diverse illegal women who wants to slip into Vegas and score some of that sweet slot machine loot.
The daughter is an absolute cuntosaurus, every decision she makes is a terrible one and she is obnoxiously self-righteous about making them.
Scott (Bautista) is flipping burgers in some greasy spoon when Sinister Japanese Businessman makes him an offer. Slip into Las Vegas, crack the vault in one of the hotels and bring home the loot. Your cut is fifty million, split any way you want. There is a ticking timebomb element, in four days the government is nuking Las Vegas.
Scott assembles his crack team of mercenaries and sinister Japanese Businessman forces his Suspicious Security Guy onto the expedition. This was some of the clumsiest writing I have ever seen in my life, everybody on the team kept going on and on about how suspicious the security chief was. He may as well have had a tee-shirt that said, ‘I will betray you all,’ in blinking pink sequins. If the guy was that much of a worry to a crew of genuine killers, they’d have popped him once they were in the city and told Tanaka he didn’t make it out, shit happens.
Also, Cuntosaurus demands to come along because her Diverse Friend got trapped inside Las Vegas when she snuck in to bust slot machines. And being God’s Perfect Idiot, Scott agrees to let his daughter join the team despite the fact she brings nothing but bitchiness to the party. Every scene she was in slowed down the movie when it needed to go faster. I hated this character (obviously) and everyone who has seen the movie hates her too.
So, the team enters Vegas and the Coyote immediately shoots the rapist guard from the compound and makes an offering of him to Zeus the king of the super-zombies. If you give them a human, they will leave you alone for a while.
Time for the zombie rules. These zombies are animated corpses, one bite and you’re a zombie. They can only be killed by a shot to the head. But there are a few innovations. There are two types of zombie. The Shamblers, are slow, dull-witted but there are lots of them and the Alphas (super-zombies) are fast, have some intelligence, can communicate with each other, and have a rudimentary organization. If Shamblers dry out they stop moving, if it rains, they start moving again.
The team runs into a zombie tiger which I admit was cool. Filler happens for a while, then they crack the vault but oh no, suspiciously acting Suspicious Guy betrays them. Evil Japanese Businessman didn’t care about the money at all, he had sent Suspicious Guy in to cut off the head of the Zombie Queen because zombies are a goldmine of military applications. What the hell is it with this movie trope of “let’s sell this out-of-control technology to the military for billions?” There is no possible practical application in the field for dinosaurs, werewolves, or freaking zombies. Maybe this was just me but when I was in combat, I don’t remember ever once thinking, if only we had some zombies.
Suspicious Guy was a waste of screen time. A much better way of handling Suspicious Guy’s function would have been to make him a nice guy and good man to have in a fight so that the audience will feel just as betrayed as the team when he turns on them. But since the idiot doing the rewrites was an SJW, he had to provide a constant stream of emotional validation for the good guy characters.
Tanaka himself was handled pretty clumsily as well. Scott tells him that he doesn’t like or trust him, but he has to take this job. Okay, Scott why the hell don’t you like or trust him? What has he done besides being a sinister oriental? The answer is nothing, the dropped-out-of-college-in-the-first-semester-English-Major doing the rewrites, just ordered the audience to distrust Tanaka.
Anyone with a brain would have gotten rid of Suspicious Guy and sent in Tanaka himself with the team. Give him high-tech personal armor and a katana and you are good to go. He can do the betraying himself later.
Anyway, the Suspicious Guy gets killed by Siegfried and Roy’s undead pet. What is left of the team barely gets to the chopper and they would have been safe except, Cuntosaurus demands they divert to pick up her Victim of Trump Oppression Friend. So, they do that. Zeus jumps in the chopper just as they are taking off, the chopper crashes after the nuclear bomb goes off. Scott manages to blow Zeus’ head off but only after he gets bit. Everyone including the Illegal Immigrant dies, except for Cuntosaurus, naturally, who had to shoot her father in the head when he turned. Apparently, I was supposed to be pleased that the imbecile who got everyone killed was the sole survivor because she was so Woke.
Look zombie films get a lot of leeway for a lack of common sense because it’s the nature of the beast. You have to accept a scientific impossibility as a baseline of suspended disbelief, dead things cannot move, if they can move, then there is no point in shooting the brain because it’s already mush. Consequently, a lot of other common-sense things get swept under the carpet as well. And I wouldn’t mind things getting taken to eleven if there had been any plot consistency but there were just too many gaping plot holes.
The heist was completely pointless. There was no reason not to tell the mercenary team what the real mission was. Cutting off the zombie queen’s head would have been much easier all the way around if the entire team was on board. I’m willing to bet that the heist was a leftover from an earlier script. And they were counting on the audience not noticing there was no longer any reason for it.
Zeus coming from a top-secret military project was just fine, zombie fans are good with that kind of mystery box. The problem came when Zeus’s zombie wife* turned out to be pregnant with a zombie fetus?!?!? That was dead after his mother was “killed?”
The implication is obvious, Zach Snyder’s zombies have sex and there is a point to it other than recreation.
Look I’m not saying it’s terrible if you make Zombies that can love. One of the most heart-rending scenes I’ve ever read was at the end of Nick Cole’s The End of the World as We Knew It. But the zombie fetus and its implications were just too big of a WTF moment. It was meant to evoke sympathy for Zeus but it took the audience out of the story.
Zeus is smart enough to know that his one weakness is his brain, so he armors his head. It was another “wait a minute” moment. The Alpha Zombies are self-aware tool users? They take nourishment from their surroundings; demonstrate continual change AND they can reproduce by sex? Sorry, but your “zombies” just met the textbook definition of being a form of life. Alpha Zombies are just people with bad teeth and skin.
These innovations were probably another reason the film got dumped on Netflix. It tested badly with the primary audience. Zombie fans are passionate, and they will turn out big time for a movie but ONLY if you strictly follow the established rules of the genre. Zombie fans do not like innovation. Trust me, I learned that one the hard way with my first book, The Great Divide Game. Zombie fans want an overnight planetary apocalypse, they want the zombies to be a product of “science” (meaning no supernatural origin) but they also don’t want it too “sciencey.” I also learned that the hard way, the world was not waiting for a hard science zombie novel.
Army of the Dead was supposed to be a pile of dumb fun. It was supposed to be Fat Elvis Zombie fighting with Young Elvis Zombie. It was supposed to be Zombie Liberace Impersonator leading a charge of topless zombie showgirls and Zombie Wayne Newton riding his zombie tiger into battle while Viva Las Vegas is blasted from the speakers. You see hints of the much more fun movie that this should have been peeking out in various scenes. But the Woke rewrites absolutely devastated it.
Army of the Dead; a good movie destroyed by Orange Man Bad.
As I have always said, I only give a Does Not Recommend rating to a film if there is no reason to see it at all. And there are a few reasons to see this one.
If you love Zach Snyder visuals, then it’s a don’t miss. There is plenty of gore if you want that, I will freely grant that the circular demolition saw is an improvement over the chainsaw trope. But the overall story is Woke-washed crap.
The Dark Herald Recommends with (deep) Reservations.
See you Monday.
UPDATE: I had to put this video of the actress who plays the Zombie Queen somewhere.