Army of the Dead

Army of the Dead ★★½

Oof, this is already shaping up to be a polarising one isn't it?

Army of the Dead gripped me in it's rotting palm instantly from the onset, with a 15 minute opening credit sequence detailing the fall of Las Vegas to the undead in typically bombastic Snyder fashion, combining the autuer's penchent for the stylishly gruesome, mordantly comedic, and some truly exhilerating imagery.

To say it's all downhill from there though would be a bit melodramatic...if a teeny bit accurate.

Snyder ends up catching himself in a familiar trap: Trying to combine his desire to tell a deeper, more introspective character piece (in this case, a father re-connecting with his estraned daughter story, spiced with immigration strife and arcs for at least half of his respective cast) and his typical dude-bro maximalism, but not being able to reconcile them in time to create an altogether satisfying experience.

While the characters are emphasised enough to where they are endearing and memorable, particularly Dieter (Mattihas Schweighoeffer), Vanderhoe (Omari Hardwick), and The Coyote (Nora Arnezeder), the cast in general does a LOT of the heavy lifting here giving the comic-book style absurdism grounded credibility and the overwrought melodrama weight that it wouldn't otherwise have. Dave Bautista continues to show why he deserves bigger roles, projecting a teddy-bear like softness with his intimidating wrestler physique that takes the best of his dramatic and action material. He can do it all ladies!

I love trashy horror. I love the Dawn of the Dead remake. I've enjoyed most of Snyder's filmography. So why didn't I love this? It must have something to do with the fact that not enough juicy material is mind from the admittedly intriguing concept of Ocean's 11 meets the Living Dead. The bloated runtime and slow-motion desperatly want to convince you that this is a monumental zombie EPIC, however the truth is nothing much happens in it. There are some fun character beats and the acting ensures the film never threatens to put you to sleep before the action rocks the boat, but we spend more time watching our protagonists spout exposition to one another and walk around a ruined Vegas rather than Bautista and co. dispensing headshots. For god-sake, we only get to visit TWO major locations in the Strip setting, with the rest left frustratingly uncovered for sequels and spin-offs (UGH).

After the unexpected warmness of the Snyder Cut, I had hoped he had moved on from his eye-rollingly bleak nihilism, but he's all too eager to jump back into it for the second half of Army of the Dead. He spends so much time building these characters up, and then just discrads them like unappetizing scraps off his dinner plate. One character in particular, who the audience is absolutely supposed to be ROOTING FOR TO THE VERY END, just...dies. She's given zero narrative closure, and we're just supposed to assume she kicked the bucket for an easy out that rings lazy. However, you do get SEVERAL incredible kills, some of the most satisfying chunks of gore I've seen in a zombie movie period illustrated with a gorgeous soft-lense that makes every frame appear as if they've been filled in with runny pastels.

As turn-your-brain off action/horror film, it delivers the goods eventually, but Snyder's virtues and most obnoxious cliches are running in overdrive throughout Army's DNA. And yes, he does go for the obvious needledrops. I can't believe the balls on this man to play an acoustic version of The Cranberries "Zombie" at the films falling action. What a madlad.

Also Tig Notaro threatens to steal the show.

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