*BEWARE: SPOILERSSSSSSSSSS AHEAD ALERT*
A good zombie movie consists of three simple but essential things: heart, motivations, and of course zombies. Miss even one of these and you’re barely making it through and risk a disaster a movie. And I think you can tell by the title of this review where we land on Army of the Dead, Netflix’s next big blockbuster and one of the movies I was most excited about in 2021.
It’s not like everything was a disaster. Army of the Dead had two out of three of the components. They had motivations, each and every single one of them. There was a job with bucket loads of money at the end of the rainbow. Simple and to the point. They also had the zombies; freakishly intelligent zombies who came from an Alpha with dog tags, an obvious service member and victim of experimentation.
But what was essential, and what will destroy a movie without hesitation, is the fact that this disaster had no heart. We felt nothing for the humans, except some occasional joy with Deiter and Van’s antics. Everyone else? We didn’t care if they lived or died. And it was made even worse that they didn’t seem to really care for each other besides the daughter and father. They just keep moving, companions and camaraderie be damned.
That doesn’t make for a movie I want to watch but here we are with me having made that sacrifice so you wouldn’t have to. And since no movie is completely a flaming dumpster fire, I’ve decided to start this Army of the Dead review with a couple positives before hitting you with some hard truths. Then we’ll circle about and talk about the things I wish would’ve happened.
REMEMBER. THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD! YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!
Things I Liked
Credit: Clay Enos/Netflix
The Relationship Between Dieter and Van
The shining stars of Army of the Dead were Omari Hardwick and Matthias Schweighöfer. Their Vanderohe and Dieter were full of fun moments and developed into the strongest bond of the entire movie. Seriously, anytime they were on screen I was guaranteed a good time and a relationship that I wouldn’t mind seeing across multiple movies and genres. Plus you could tell that the actors really clicked, this easy going nature transferring over to their moments on screen with each other from the start to the very end of this movie.
Tig Being Themselves Was a Plus
Tig Notaro’s character Peters was the right move. I don’t even remember who had this role before Notaro because they made it their own. Sure, I would’ve loved to see Peters reacting with more of the crew, but the Snyder’s did what they could with them. Their characters easy going attitude and “fuck it, I’ll join for money” attitude was also really refreshing and different from the rest of the characters. Plus they clicked well with Dave Bautista’s Scott Ward and Ana de la Reguera’s Cruz. Like Vanderohe and Dieter, I wanted a little more of Peters.
The Smart Zombies
I love when movies mix things up and make use of different kinds of zombie. This time around it’s smart zombies with an alpha that has no problem ruling over Las Vegas with an iron grip and with his zombie queen by his side. And that zombie queen is just as terrifying as her partner, displaying smarts that I wish we saw more of overall. Smarter zombies also always leads to more dangerous action scenes, bigger risks, and crazier scenes for us to enjoy as movie goers. And it’s not just the humanoid zombies you have to worry about. There’s tigers too…
The Overall Look
A lot of effort went into making the Snyder’s Army of the Dead world come alive and it shows. You can tell they put time into making this look like Las Vegas, from the streets to it’s additional cast of zombies who tore the city apart. And I appreciate that. It really went with the whole zombie vibe of it all and helped immerse me in the story. So kudos to the crew behind the scenes. They did their job and they did it well.
Things I Hated
It Wasn’t Fun
Army of the Dead wasn’t fun. And this is coming from someone who loves a good laugh and was looking forward to that in the midst of a heist movie with a side of zombie madness. But the jokes ended up being so one dimensional and overshadowed by THAT intro, Theo Rossi’s predator character, and the addition of Martin to name a few overbearing elements. If anything, all the great comedic beats were for Vanderohe, Dieter, and Peters. And even then, that wasn’t enough to make this movie funny or the comedy/action/zombie madness the trailers teased this movie to be.
The Heartfelt Story Wasn’t Heartfelt
Army of the Dead wanted me to invest in Scott and his daughter Kate. But honestly? Kate was overbearing, unreasonable, and hard to connect with. She didn’t listen, she didn’t try, and she somehow ended up succeeding at every turn in spite of all that. It felt like I was missing something essential when it came to connecting with Kate and then in turn with Scott; leaving no room for me to actually feel like their story was heartfelt or worth investing in. Hell, maybe instead of making us feel so much for the zombies they could’ve turned that on Scott and Kate. But alas, we can’t do that and the movie is done.
They Did the Latinx People Dirty
Coming into Army of the Dead I was pumped to see so many Latinos. I was sure we would get some epic scenes of them kicking ass, taking names, and being BAMF zombie killers with a healthy dose of character development. And we did get some ass kicking. That was great. But on the character development side of things? Oh it was weak. Even worse, every single Latinx person was killed, with two of them being window dressing to fuel the story of a man and his pain/journey. Been there, done that, tired of it all.
Update: Just found out one of the Latinx people in the movie isn’t even Latinx. Wait, what?
They Didn’t Follow Basic Zombie 101
For a bunch of survivors of the zombie overtaking of Las Vegas, they acted like they’d never fought zombies. Sure, they could shoot zombies right in the head with crazy accuracy but they didn’t move or act like a team that knew how to stick, fight, or survive together aka basic zombie 101 that equals survivors at the end. That’s not even taking into consideration that no one double checked or scouted the area besides one time with Lily and Martin. Just mistake after mistake from supposedly “seasoned” fighters of the undead.
Things I Wish Had Happened
Credit: Scott Garfield/Netflix
Dieter and Van Surviving
Dieter and Van surviving in Army of the Dead was the only thing I wanted in this entire damn movie. They had the chemistry, they brought the fun, and Dieter should’ve locked both of their asses in that vault. Imagine how amazing it would’ve been for that dynamic to make it out of the blast zone and live in the lap of luxury while being bros? Also, is it just me or was there potential between Dieter and Van to be something more than just friends and partners in crime? The spark was there, I tell you. But alas, there was no LGBTQ representation.
That Peters Left Them All
Honestly, Peters should’ve left. And it’s not about me not wanting them to grow a conscience all of a sudden. Good for them and their character development. But the matter of the fact is that Peters is a pilot who knows their helicopters. They know how to fix them, what makes them tick, and how long to get from point A to point B. Also, they weren’t an idiot (it would’ve taken Scott ages to search for his dumbass daughter in that gigantic hotel) or had bonded with anyone enough to warrant them coming back.
That Anyone But Kate Survived
Seriously?! The most useless (yes, more useless than Dieter because at least he is there to crack the safe) member of the gang that did nothing but put the entire team in danger actually survived? It’s a choice that I can’t see the purpose of and if I were Scott I would’ve left her behind. Does that make me a bad person? Maybe. But they had 9 minutes to go and Kate made her choice. She chose to put others in danger for someone we barely knew or cared about to actually make her journey compelling in any way, shape, or form.
That the Zombies Survived
I said, what I said. The zombies should’ve survived and technically they have through Van. But the whole lot of them should’ve been set free like they did in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Because those zombies were minding their own damn business before Hiroyuki Sanada’s Tanaka, Martin, and the US government came a knocking to fuck things up and destroy a society who was not just surviving but thriving. Maybe I’m just so done with this movie. Or maybe it’s like Ian Malcolm said. We’ve entered a new era.
Welcome to the end of the world.
Army of the Dead is now available in theaters and will premiere on Netflix on May 21st.