BY MATT TUCK
Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead is a zombie heist movie that true to form steals its monsters straight from Game of Thrones. As fun as it was at times, the problem was that I had seen every aspect of this movie before.
Are we going to start a #ReleasetheSnydercut campaign for Army of the Dead?
I finally got caught up on my Netflix viewing, and I decided to give Zack Snyder’s latest CGI epic a try. For the most part, I enjoyed it, but, man, did he go heavy on the clichés. You’ve got sad backstories, tales of redemption that you know will end in death, life lessons learned a little too late, cocky antagonists that are destined to become zombies, and smart zombies that wear capes and Lord of the Rings-inspired helmets.
More than anything else, there were copious amounts of Game of Thrones brimming throughout this story. The titular army of the dead was very clearly meant to be GOT’s White Walkers complete with a zombie horse, just swap Westeros for Las Vegas in this case. The icing on the cake was the lead zombie’s brain shield that looked fit for an Uruk-hai launching an attack on Helm’s Deep.
Like an episode of GOT, no character is safe from extermination. You may think that’s a spoiler, but it’s not; once you press play, it is painfully obvious who will make it and who won’t. Throw in a little character development or general douchebaggery, and you can pretty well map out where this story is headed. To complete the formula, there’s poor character decisions that make very little sense.
It’s not that Army of the Dead was necessarily a bad movie, but it wasn’t exactly a good movie, either. In a lot of respects, I wonder if Snyder wasn’t aiming to make a “good” movie. I know that sounds odd. Why would anyone not want to make a good movie? In today’s cinema culture, filmmakers adore self-aware, guilty-pleasure movies. It’s hipster logic at its best: a director making a movie knowing it’s a bad movie (don’t forget the ironically-themed pop music sprinkled throughout), which makes it an oxymoron in that it is both good and bad at the same time.
Virtually every character and every plot element came from a long lineage of cliches. Along with GOT, there’s shades of Ocean’s Eleven, Zombieland, Charlton Heston’s Omega Man, Escape from New York, Aliens, The Walking Dead, Resident Evil, everything George R. Romero ever made, and a helping of all the Vietnam-era war flicks you’ve ever seen.
It’s a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster in itself, and that’s okay. What else can anyone do with a zombie franchise that hasn’t been done to walking death? At least Zack Snyder was attempting something a little different, what with the zombie heist and all. At this point, I am ready for the living dead genre to just be dead for a few years.
Despite all my complaining, I still enjoyed the movie for what it was. The special effects and the makeup were nothing new, but they were good enough to add to the experience without pulling me off the ride. The individual performances from the cast were sufficient, though no one particularly stood out as a future star.
The bottom line is that Army of the Dead is a movie that unapologetically steals from every source it can find to make a horror-themed amusement park ride. It’s not great, but I doubt anyone set out to make this an Oscar winner in the first place. Who knows? Maybe there’s a Snyder-cut buried in the Netflix vault waiting for its Academy Awards.
Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is a professional writer, avid comic collector, former teacher, and an international man of mystery. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog.