After much ruckus, Zack Snyder finally has a new film that isn’t about anyone in a cape. Since Man of Steel in 2013, he has been churning out DC superhero films, apparently, with one arm tied behind his back by a studio with a tight grip on the IP. Culminating with his long-rumored and overhyped Justice League directors cut, Snyder is finally free from the long arm of the studio and ready to jump in bed with Netflix, flaunting their large bankrolls and directorial freedoms.
Therein lies the rub. Should directors get free reign over everything, have the final say, and answer to no one? Maybe, but probably not. If a director has an “uncompromising vision” should they not take notes? Possibly avoid bigger failures that they cannot see from the tunnel vision of getting the project done? What happens if their vision sucks? All these questions should be weighed and measured, there has to be a compromise. Snyder has set a new precedent and it’s catching on, even his new sugar daddy Netflix is jumping on the bandwagon, marketing this as “the director’s cut”.
Army of the Dead is the film in question. Snyder’s second foray into the world of the undead, this time the director has finely tuned his craft and what we get is a mediocre zombie flick full of action and all the “Snyderisms” one could want. If this isn’t a case of “preaching to the choir” then I don’t know what it. There are plenty of directors with their own unique style, but over the top as it is, this man needs to be stopped – but I digress.
Set in a world where the zombie outbreak has been contained to Las Vegas, and only Las Vegas, a group of zombie killers are recruited to steal a bunch of cash from a casino vault before Vegas is nuked and taken off the map. The opening scene with all its slow motion and visual effects does a brilliant job of setting up the world and the characters living in it. That is the peak, it’s all downhill from there.
The leader of the group, Scott is played by Dave Bautista who slides into the roll with ease. Once again playing a character with glasses that are too small for his head. Scott is tapped to assemble his team of misfits for the mission. Another strike, films like these live and die by the ensemble cast, aside from Bautista and Nora Arnezeder who plays the vicious “Coyote”, everyone else is either zombie bait or so poorly written that it doesn’t matter what service they are to the story. Tig Notaro suffers the most, although it’s not all her fault, Chris D’Elia was fired from the film after abuse allegations and since everything was already filmed, Tig was inserted into the film via green screen and other special effects, and unfortunately it’s pretty distracting.
As the film slogs on towards the end of its two and half hour length (hooray directors vision), there is not enough zombie mayhem to keep your attention. Yes, there are some great action sequences, Snyder knows how to make the action look beautiful and sleek. He does his own cinematography here and at times it’s quite stunning, highlighting the neon-soaked Sin City. The main story gets sidelined several times by weak secondary characters that don’t give enough weight to the final result of the film, leaving what you just watched feel like empty calories. If there is a 90 to 98-minute cut of this film, with tighter characters and a more focused story, it could be a lot of fun.
There is enough zombie killing to keep the genre fans happy and more than enough Snyder to keep Snyder fans happy, but if you don’t fit into either camp, this can be avoided.
2 out of 5