We are so used to associating Zack Snyder’s work at DCEU and Warner, that one would almost forget that the director started his career with zombies. It is indeed Dawn of the dead who made his film debut in 2004. With Army of the Dead, available now on Netflix, he returns in a way to his first love. For nearly two and a half hours, he takes us on a heist film in the heart of a dystopian Las Vegas invaded by the living dead, and threatened by nuclear fire. A setting straight out of a reality that we hope we never know, in which a group of mercenaries tries to survive, tasked by a mysterious business manager to recover loot hidden in one of his casinos. If they succeed in their mission, wealth is assured.
This merry troupe as gifted as chaotic is embodied by an endearing cast led by Dave Bautista. The former wrestler turned actor amazes with his portrayal of Scott Ward, a veteran who dreams of opening his own restaurant and helping his daughter financially. He shows as much charisma as he does sensitivity, embodying a leader with big arms and a tender heart. His chemistry with Ella Purnell, who plays Kate Ward, works wonderfully and their father-daughter duo is all the more believable. On paper, the stars ofArmy of the Dead are the zombies, but above all it is Scott’s gang that catches our attention.
Each character has their own atypical personality, their own way of fighting zombies, and their absolute dream. Much like the pieces of a puzzle, together they work best. There is the mechanic, the German specialist in safes, the crazy helicopter pilot, the brave Youtuber duo, the former soldier who beheads zombies with an electric saw, the stubborn volunteer, or the French speaker who knows zombies like the back of his hand. Their relationships and bond evolve over the course of the film, making each of them seem like their own little story arc.
Of course, who says zombie film necessarily means zombies, and Zack Snyder has decided to play the card of originality with those ofArmy of the Dead. Forget the mindless creatures that walk awry, those in the film have created their own monarchy led by the undead Zeus and his queen, respectively played by Richard Cetrone and Athena Perample, two stuntmen with whom the filmmaker has worked in the past. In addition to these Alpha and their subjects we discover other kinds of zombies, and even animals. A diversity that brings a plus to Army of the Dead, which still retains the more classic codes of films of the genre.
A bit like its different categories of zombies, Army of the Dead is several feature films in one. It will satisfy fans of gore and action-packed popcorn movies, just as it will appeal to those who like to find a minimum of sensitivity and emotion in a plot. The paw of Zack Snyder is also present, and this from the opening scene. Between clever, even funny musical choices, slow-motion sequences, a side taken to the extreme and sometimes a bit of a burlesque, totally assumed, we feel that the director took pleasure in making this film and was able to enjoy a certain artistic freedom. Its flaw, again unique to Zack Snyder’s cinema, may be its length. Still, considering the number of characters and plots to solve, those two and a half hours don’t really seem like too much. If the blood and flying heads don’t scare you too much, we advise you to jump on Army of the Dead like a zombie on a still warm body. Also available on Netflix, the futuristic camera Oxygen with Mélanie Laurent.