Army of the Dead has a lot of problems, which is typical for a Zack Snyder movie. Snyder’s films are basically popcorn flicks: you shut your brain off for two hours and just have fun.
Don’t question why Spartans are rushing into battle in their underwear. Or why saying ‘Martha’ would stop psycho Batman from executing what he perceives is the greatest threat to humanity. Just look at the colors, the overabundance of slo-mo, and you’ll probably finish a Snyder film mentally unscathed.
But anytime Snyder dares to go beyond his expertise, say, giving characters any sense of depth and emotion, he falters. And that’s what went wrong with Army of the Dead, which, instead of embracing the wackiness of its concept, just tries to do too much.
The story is simple enough. A group of mercenaries is hired to retrieve 200 million dollars of cash in a vault somewhere in zombie-infested Las Vegas. These aren’t your normal undead either. They move fast, have a cult, and follow a leader named Zeus, who is reminiscent of the infected from I Am Legend.
The protagonists are entertainingly diverse: you have the straight arrows, a social media influencer, a clueless German, a snarky pilot, and a couple of badasses. The trailer banked on this diversity, complete with a shot of all the characters in a circle, mowing down hordes of zombies, each with their own different reaction. One was nervous. Another was chewing gum. A dude was laughing his ass off.
It was supposed to be fun, reminiscent of games like Dead Rising, which lets you kill the undead dressed up as Mega Man. But then, they just had to shoo in this infuriating father-daughter subplot.
Without getting into too many details, Scott (played by Dave Bautista) has a daughter, Kate (Ella Purnell) who practically gets everyone killed. Alright, maybe not everyone, but around 2/3 of the group. Our minds are still fuzzy from the amount of ‘WTFs’ we churned out thanks to this character.
Kate’s entire subplot of ‘I really gotta rescue a friend’ is so annoying and unnecessary. Look, friends are awesome, and loyalty is everything. But when, despite your warnings, said friend does something stupid that could cost the lives of 10 others, including your own dad, you might want to consider rebalancing your priorities.
As creatives, we understand the temptation to inject every content with ‘substance’. But Zack, your film has a goddamn zombie tiger. Army of the Dead isn’t – and doesn’t have to be – that deep. We’re already perfectly fine with what’s on the table.
And look, I have no qualms with protagonists dying in movies. I learned that the hard way in Terminator 2. But if they’re going to get capped, it better be from trying to protect the savior of humanity. Not from chasing someone who runs off 9 minutes before a nuke obliterates everyone.