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Spoiler free Army of the Dead review: Netflix hits gold with Zack Snyder zombie blockbuster

Zack Snyder has singlehandedly scored a massive point for zombie action lovers in his “Army of the Dead” (2021) film, distributed by Netflix.

For some time now, fans of these kinds of films find themselves unable to share in the excitement that comic book geeks, historical drama fans and even romance lovers have experienced in recent years. Long gone are the days of the “Evil Dead” franchise, and the “Walking Dead” TV series has simply gone on for so long that it became a chore. However, this 2021 zombie heist film will give them something to cheer about.

Hanging on the broad shoulders of Dave Bautista, Omari Hardwick, and the rest of the cast, “Army of the Dead” is the film that puts Zack Snyder up there: among the stars. What is it about?

The Story

Without giving much away, at least not more than is already publicly available, the film follows a group of mercenaries undertaking a dangerous task: they want to infiltrate a casino in Las Vegas and recover a sum of $200 million.

Spoiler free Army of the Dead review: Netflix hits gold with Zack Snyder zombie blockbuster

The Las Vegas in Snyder’s film is overrun by flesh-eating zombies and a zombie-tiger as well. This job will take more than just any ordinary group of mercenaries to complete. This explains why Scott Ward (played by Bautista) takes on the role of recruiter after accepting the gig. He has experience killing zombies, and he hires several other experienced hands to help him.

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Additionally, besides the zombies, our beloved mercenaries are in a race against time because a contained nuclear warhead is headed their way within 24 hours 90 minutes.

In the end, Scott takes about three rookies with him into the mission. Each of whom has various reasons for joining and serve different purposes in the outcome of the film. 

Initially, “Army of the Dead” was announced in 2007 as a sequel to the 2004 horror film “Dawn of the Dead”, also by Zack Snyder. Why is this important? Film buffs, who grew up in the post-zombie-horror era of the 80s and 90s, may find it difficult to fall in love with this kind of story. Especially as there is no explanation of how the infection began.

Likely, coming sequels will bring the answers they seek. But they should just move past the origin and immerse themselves in what is happening to enjoy this film.

What to like?

Spoiler free Army of the Dead review: Netflix hits gold with Zack Snyder zombie blockbuster
Army of the Dead review: opening credits spark immediate interest

Right from the opening credits, Snyder’s work pulls in viewers with bare-chest shots of zombies raiding a casino before climaxing in overrunning the city. Before getting to the opening credits, you get to see what the film is about in the first few scenes. An expert’s snip-and-cut showcase of brilliance.

“Army of the Dead” is more than just a ‘fun film’. It also features emotionally charged moments as well as karmic justice that will please the good-triumphs-over-evil crowd. Yet, it is not pushy and does not try to force viewers to feel something that is not there. This is why those who watched it simply for the gore and explosive shots got their wishes.

As for the music, “Viva Las Vegas” by Richard Cheese & Allison Crowe fits so well into this gun-blazing horror production that it continues to play in your head hours after seeing the film.

It will always remain a mystery how Zack Snyder gives almost every character a moment to shine in a film of just over two hours. He had done the same thing for his all-star ensemble on “Justice League 2021”. He repeats the feat again in “Army of the Dead”. This is why you likely remember one thing that stands out about all the major characters.

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Lastly, as a lover of theatre, the director sows the seed of amazement with the scene where you suddenly feel sorry for Zeus (played by Richard Cetrone), a grotesque voiceless zombie, crying over his murdered lover. He had done the same thing with the now-iconic “Save Martha!” scene from “Dawn of Justice 2016”. But it is all not just praises …

What could have been better?

Not much. The director covered most of his lapses from the past, but in doing so, he mostly left out his signature slow-mo action sequences. Surprisingly, Zack Snyder bowed to the pressure from critics who think he wastes film duration with these slow-motion scenes.

Granted, it may have looked overdone in “300” (2007) and even his recent “Justice League cut”. Yet, “Army of the Dead” had scenes that would have been better in slow motion.

Spoiler free Army of the Dead review: Netflix hits gold with Zack Snyder zombie blockbuster
Kate Ward (played by Ella Purnell)

Additionally, Kate Ward (played by Ella Purnell) ending up as one of the most important characters looks forced. For most of the film, she was more of a spectator (an annoying one at that). Then, she suddenly became an excellent shooter, dropping a horde of zombies with a handgun towards the end of the film.

Veteran film buffs will also be displeased with the plot twists because they were obvious from a mile away, and their ‘big reveal’ did nothing to improve the viewing experience.

Language

“Army of the Dead” is primarily in English, but the characters drop one or two phrases in Spanish, German, and French. You can also pick up some zombie-speak lingo if you pay close attention to the film.

Final word

A lot depends on the success of this film. Already, it has emerged as the best theatrical opening for a Netflix film. 2018 drama film “Roma” previously held the record with a $200,000 five-day earning but “Army of the Dead” made $290,000 on its first day of release, and $780,000 over its opening weekend.

Critics on film review sites like Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic, and PostTrak gave it 6.2/10, 5.7/10, and 83% positive score ratings respectively. Social media users are also heaping praise on the film.

Pending when Netflix posts its numbers concerning the film, we can say that it is a success and has achieved what it set out to do. You may also like to read our recent article New Music Friday: Olivia Rodrigo releases debut album ‘Sour’; Twenty One Pilots also drop Scaled and Icy Album.

Obinna
Obinna is a fiction writer from Lagos, Nigeria, and grew up loving comic book characters and superheroes. He watches lots of action films and writes entertainment and technology articles. He is also interested in science and how things work.

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