In 2004 Zach Snyder accomplished something truly impressive. He successfully remade George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. The 1970’s original classic is considered by many to be one of the greatest zombie films ever made. And yet, Snyder successfully reimagined the story of people trapped in a shopping mall during a zombie apocalypse in a way that was fresh, exciting and inventive. Now, Zach Snyder has returned to the zombie genre that helped launch his career with the Netflix film “Army of the Dead.”
With a runtime of just under two and a half hours it’s clear that Snyder was given the creative freedom to craft the zombie film he had in mind, leaving little on the cutting room floor. But despite being well over two hours, the film never drags or feels overly long. From the beginning, the film establishes that these zombies are different from the shuffling, slow paced zombies we’ve seen in films and television before. They are powerful and quick. But it’s more than just being fast. These zombies move with a purpose and display a level of intelligence not normally associated with zombies.
Scott Ward ( Dave Bautista) is hired to steal 200 million from a vault inside a quarantined and zombie infested Las Vegas. He then assembles a team of mercenaries with the necessary skillsets to get the job done. The film plays out like an action packed Ocean’s 11 with zombies (including a zombie tiger). The supporting cast of safe crackers, pilots and muscle are filled out with a talented mix of new comers and familiar faces.
At the heart of the film is the relationship between Ward and his estranged adult daughter. It’s during the moments that explore this relationship that we get to see Dave Bautista’s dramatic range at play. Audiences got a small glimpse of Bautista’s dramatic talent in Blade Runner 2049, and he proves once again that he has the talent to lead a major motion picture. While there is no denying the over bearing charm and charisma of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Bautista continues to prove that he is the more talented and versatile wrestler turned movie star.
As the team moves through the quarantined zone we get a better understanding of how these zombies operate and exist within the abandoned Las Vegas. This movie sets out to be more than just another zombie movie, and for the most part it succeeds. There is tension, suspense, plenty of action and some new ideas. But, this is a zombie movie through and through and it never lets you forget that. The word “zombie” is never shied away from, either, and can be heard several times through out the film. And while it is certainly a fun take on the nearly worn out genre, it does fall into many of the clichés and tropes you’d expect.
There are naked zombies, guns that fire far more ammunition than they can hold and lots and lots of gore.
Following Zach Snyder’s tumultuous relationship with Warner Bros. and the DC Extended Universe this film feels like a breath of fresh air from the director. It is a Zach Snyder movie, complete with stunning visuals and an amazing sound track. Despite the film’s flaws it never loses track of its main purpose, to serve as a fun and entertaining way to spend a few hours. In that aspect it is a major success and a welcomed return to Snyder’s roots. 7.5/10