Army of the Dead (2021) Review

Army of the Dead is stylish and visually brilliant, but that's just not enough to cover up the fact there's no story to be told.

Army of the Dead (2021) is a zombie action film directed by Zack Snyder and follows a group of mercenaries as they attempt a heist from a casino in Las Vegas amidst a zombie apocalypse. The film has an ensemble cast and stars Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwick, Ana de la Reguera, Matthias Schweighöfer, Nora Arnezeder, Tig Notaro, and Raúl Castillo. The screenplay was written by Zack Snyder, Shay Hatten, and Joby Harold.

The film revolves around a heist, whereby the film’s main characters form a ragtag group of mercenaries who assemble in a very cliché montage. The aim is to secure £200m from a casino, under the instruction of ex-owner Bly Tanaka [Hiroyuki Sanada]. What ensues is a high-octane heist, jam-packed with slow motion shots and high calibre weapons of mass destruction.

Although it’s stylish and action-packed, the film is sorely lacking in story-telling power. With a runtime of 148 minutes, it had ample time to fill in some of the massive plot holes, but instead wasted time with drawn out slo-mo shots. The reason the film lacks so much pivotal information is probably because Snyder and Netflix are already planning on releasing two prequel series to the film. It seems like Army of the Dead will be marketed to become a franchise and thus the producers were eager not to put too much information into this instalment.

This is a great shame because it let down the film as a whole, which had the potential to be quite good. The lack of character development gives the viewer little investment in the plot’s outcome, and in some parts, I was just unsure of how the plot connected. It feels a bit like buying a new game and it needing paid DLC for a good experience. I don’t see why certain elements of the plot couldn’t be expanded upon further in a prequel, instead of being entirely omitted from the only instalment that currently exists. Furthermore, it suggests to me that if the plot of the film is the scope of the content for a prequel series, that may be lacking in narrative too.

Army of the Dead is not awful, it’s fun, action-packed and the visuals are brilliant. It’s disappointing that the narrative was so weak. It’s hard to draw any conclusions on the cast’s performance because there was very little room for character development, or exploration, within the film. On the whole, it seems quite superficial. Their are some parallels between the zombie outbreak and the current pandemic, but it negates to say anything about it. It’s also set in infamous city of sin, but it only really refers to visual cues and ideas instead of anything deeper which seems like a massive missed opportunity.

In sum, Army of the Dead is a smooth and stylish action film that’s fun to watch, but the lack of depth in terms of theme, content, and narrative, is really disappointing.

Rating: 5.5 out of 10.

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