This gaudy pastiche of tired tropes and clichés is an insult to fans of the genre.
You know those artificial intelligence programs that take elements from the work of an artist, and then combine those elements to make a new work of art in the style of that artist? Army of the Dead is the zombie movie version of that, but without any of the entertainment value.
Here is some absolutely free advice for filmmakers – just because your movie takes place in Las Vegas does not mean you are required to open your movie with the song Viva Las Vegas. In fact, you are not required to use that song in your film at all. But if by some chance you do, please do not use an extended version of the song and turn your title sequence into a short film of its own at the start of your already excessive 2.5 hour movie. Oh, and also maybe use a version that doesn’t completely suck, hard as that may be.
And this pretty much sums up the entire film. You take the most obvious things you would expect from a zombie film that takes place in Las Vegas, and just heavy-handedly combine them into a film that offers nothing unique or original or….well, interesting, and you are left with Army of the Dead.
There is a German character named Dieter, who is supposed to be the comic relief, but whose jokes are all just retakes on the trillions of ‘that face when’ memes that pollute the internet. There are other characters, too, but they are also pretty much terrible. I won’t even bother dissecting each of them. However I would like to point out that, the acting itself is not a problem, it is the writing and directing beneath the performance which make the talent’s job Promethean in nature.
I spent much of the time lost in the plot, not because it was too complex, but because it gets left behind as the film attempts to check every single zombie trope off the list. Now I understand the recycling of established zombie canon can be found in just about every zombie movie made in the 20th century, but in most of those cases the film sticks to a handful of them, rather than desperately trying to squeeze every single one of them into a single feature.
However it isn’t just the recycling of zombie film tropes that sinks this cinematic turd, there is recycling of other films ideas all throughout. This is Ocean’s Eleven meets Mad Max smashed up against Return of the Living Dead, and none of those films deserve the pathetic attempts to reference them which Army of the Dead does with the hammiest fist ever clenched.
If you mistakenly believe that the idea of different levels of zombie functioning is original, George Romero suggested it in Day of the Dead, and advanced the idea in Land of the Dead. There are also numerous books, comics and other films which previously explored the idea. The only thing Army of the Dead does differently is make it so hyperbolistic that even Quentin Tarantino would probably suggest some restraint.
As someone who has loved zombie movies since as I was a small child in the early 1980s, I do not just dislike Army of the Dead, I actively despise it. It comes off like an insult to fans of the genre, who don’t always get quality or originality, but still seek it. Army of the Dead does not even attempt that. It just steals every idea we fell in love with in the past, and smashes it into a nightmare of cheap gimmicks. Because of this it feels more like an exercise in demographic opportunism, or art-by-committee, than an authentic attempt at anything resembling art or entertainment.
Zach Snyder has made a career out of recycling ideas, but this is frankly the most exploitive film he has made yet. This is not an artist making what he wants to see on the screen, but a career-climbing hack making the film he thinks will have the greatest profit potential. The only vision involved here is one of dollars signs, as Zach and Netflix look to milk this overhyped tit for years of merchandise licensing fees from Spencer’s and Hot Topics.
The only redeemable quality in this entire film is the performance of Tig Notaro, who was green-screened in at the last minute. This is not to the credit of of Snyder or Netflix, but to whatever cosmic force is responsible for making Tig Notaro naturally hilarious no matter what she says, which we all owe a great debt to.