Army of the Dead

Army of the Dead ★★★

ALWAYS BET ON DEAD isn't some glib marketing tagline, it's a goddamn warning...

For more than half the runtime, I couldn't see this as anything except a colossal miscalculation, a masterclass in how not to pace a film. It didn't even feel excessive so much as it did completely inert. Every scene felt like it took twice as long as it should, every time it seemed like we were about to get to some fun Snyder carnage the film would stop to explain some bullshit plot thing or deliver some ham fisted character beat or not very funny joke. And I don't know if it's Snyder's own tastes as a DP or the grotty cameras Netflix makes people shoot stuff with but the visuals were uncharacteristically ugly for a Snyder joint.

But then people start dying, at which point Army starts to be... not necessarily great, but noticeably better. You realize that despite the undead tigers and the feudal zombie lords and the bodies being smushed into goo by booby traps, this is a tragedy, or at least Zack Snyder's apeshit version of one. You couldn't tell it from the marketing, but this is his bleakest film by a wide margin.

Admittedly it's hard to tell how much of Army's odd construction is intentional. Either Snyder is such a slave to his compulsion to make "cool shit" that he can't balance tones (which tbf, is totally possible) or he's actually fucking with us by promising a gonzo zombie epic only to blindside us with loss, disappointment and bad luck (I've seen him describe this as his "postmodern take" on the zombie action movie, so I'm gonna put this down as possible, if unlikely).

Whatever the case may be, I feel like I watched the first half of this film completely wrong, that maybe the point of this wasn't actually to get to the dumb Snyder carnage at all. And as fucking impossible as it seemed an hour ago, I'm actually psyched to see it again. Intentional or not, he's created a truly bizarre beast that whiplashes between absurd action-fantasy and fucking punishing doses of reality.

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