Army of the Dead

Army of the Dead

The zombie-hunter crew of this, the latest of semi-parody Of the Dead installments, seeks deliverance from Zack's fairly typical (among the over-educated) vision of modern America: patriarchal rape culture run rampant in the shadowy corners of wage labor monotony and immigrant oppression, false consciousness strung along by the all-powerful hands of corporate hegemony and nuclear-trigger-happy Drumpf. Metaphors for COVID's hypochondriac culture are just an afterthought to this pre-existing mythology, but they'll make it easier for aggrieved progressives of the right to swallow what aggrieved progressives of the left are vomiting. The crew's deliverance from the anxiety-inducing disruption/tedium of liberal civilization is found in a suicidal mission through Las Vegas Zombie Kingdom, which simultaneously offers images of civilizational desolation and tribal renewal—these zombies are Zack's sort-of-noble savage. Encouraging our anti-heroes alongside their existential anxiety is an arbitrary sum of fifty million dollars (fighting principles are just a memory), a number both the audience and the characters have no reference for, as illustrated by an unintentionally but admittedly hilarious line from one of too many melodramatic father-daughter scenes: “With fifteen million dollars . . . you could go back to school!” Ambitious, purposeful.

The Zombie Kingdom is a “freer country” for our suicide squad, a sentiment beyond just the presumptions of cable news paranoia, because authenticity (okay, it's a hobbyhorse) is the one true virtue to a world of anti-heroes, and there's nothing much more authentic than kill-or-be-killed. The savagery of the zombie is an upholding of the tribe, a vision of collective instinct; ruthless, animalistic rule by screeching alpha male is true freedom to the anxious romantic—comprehensible, unambiguous—too pure to be classified as oppression. Only something as horrendously offensive to our authentic selves as the prosperity of free enterprise and the peace of ordered liberty is worthy of that label. In the glorious state of nature, a high-tech lynching becomes quite low-tech, and quite literal—Time's Up, Theo Rossi. Some in the audience are really getting an impression of their Just Society. “We are all the heroes of our own story regardless of who the audience is instructed to treat as the protagonist,” Sonny Bunch explains of the caped Zombie King. That relativism is often true in an age of heroes as personality merchandise and therapeutic studies, but certainly not in the face of the enduring Truth that one Justice League was shouting to the heavens. Or maybe Superman was always just Zack's Ubermensch, power the solution to alienation, and any deeper, ancient allegories were merely aesthetic. That's starting to look like the case, because Zack Snyder is on the side of the zombies.

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