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Zack Snyder’s ‘Army of the Dead’: A bloodbath of fun and mayhem

Mohammed Rayaan | Updated on May 27, 2021

Hello heist: Director Zack Snyder scores a hat-trick with AOTD

‘AOTD’ is laced with Zack-styled fan service: Slow-motion scenes, a lot of gore and next-level action

* Snyder’s is a heist film, set in zombie-infested Las Vegas

* From the word go, the movie maintains a steady pace of action and entertainment

* Scott’s diverse mercenary crew makes for a ragtag team of crazies

* The weird side of social media is also highlighted in this movie

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There is something familiar about most zombie films. The world is on the verge of collapse or a mysterious virus infects all human beings, who end up joining the ranks of the undead. Then the hero, aided by a group of supporters, steps in to save the world.

Zack Snyder in his film Army of the Dead, now streaming on Netflix, makes it clear that his take on this decades-old genre is vastly different. His is a heist film, set in zombie-infested Las Vegas. With a screen time of 148 minutes, AOTD is laced with typical Zack-styled fan service: Slow-motion scenes, bloodbaths and, of course, next-level action.

Scott Ward (Dave Bautista) is a gun for hire who currently works in a shanty fast-food joint. He is summoned by Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada) who wants him to retrieve $200 million from his casino vault. The catch is that Scott and his team of mercenaries need to hasten their act as they only have 48 hours for the job before the military nukes the city.

The world is designed with sepia-tinted beauty: The fall of Las Vegas is shown in a monologue that is packed with slow motion, Elvis’s music (Viva Las Vegas) and an overwhelming dose of gore. The entire city is fenced using several hundred blocks of containers. As the opening title rolls up, you witness raucous zombies tearing apart humans and, in the middle of all this chaos, we have Scott and his team. Zack has not only made humans turn into mindless zombies but has also made animals wilder — there’s a zombie tiger and it looks deadly with its half-eaten face!

Zack, who started his career in 2004 with Dawn of the Dead (a remake of the 1978 horror film of the same name), holds AOTD together with ease. From the word go, the movie maintains a steady pace of action and entertainment.

There’s also an emotional sub-plot that forms a crucial crux of the story; Scott has a troubled relationship with his daughter Kate Ward (Ella Purnell), who works with the WHO, taking care of refugees. As expected, things do not go according to plan when Kate decides to join the team to search for her friend Geeta (Huma Qureshi) who hasn’t returned from rundown Vegas.

A winning factor of the movie is the performance of the cast. Bautista continues to portray characters that not only have brawn but also come packed with emotion. In AOTD, he tries his best to be a doting father around Kate, and is convincing in this act.

On the other hand, Scott’s diverse mercenary crew makes for a ragtag team of crazies: Lily aka Coyote (Nora Arnezeder) looks like she is straight out of a video game. Perhaps, her role is inspired by the lead character Alice from the underwhelming Resident Evil film series. Lily and Alice share similar traits. They are mysterious, prefer to live alone and, above all, they are masters in using guns to put down a moving zombie.

Then there is Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick), a muscular man who uses a chainsaw to rip apart zombies. He shares a humorous chemistry with Ludwig Dieter (Matthias Schweighöfer), a German safe cracker who is hauled into the team to break open the thickly vaulted casino’s locker. Dieter is timid and shrieks every time he comes across a zombie. That annoys Vanderohe who has to come around to save his comrade-in-arms.

Dieter’s comic act is balanced by Marianne Peters (Tig Notaro), a helicopter pilot, and her tongue-in-cheek commentary. When Marianne has the chance to escape, she tells Scott, “Somewhere between leaving your ass and saving my own, I developed a conscience. It’s exhausting.” Marianne is always in shades and uniform — and is ready to kick zombies.

Scott also has a female friend, a mechanic — Maria Cruz (Ana de la Reguera) — with whom there is a subtle dash of romance. Though this part of the plot plays out for only a few minutes, the film hints at a previous relationship when they are shown wedged together, guns in hand, sharing a look of concern and warmth.

The weird side of social media is also highlighted in this movie through the characters Mikey Guzman (Raúl Castillo) and Chambers (Samantha Win), sharpshooters and influencers who have massive followers as they upload selfies or brutal clips of zombie killings. Talk about content trends in a dystopian world!

In Zack’s film, there’s a sectarian divide of zombies as well — the smart ones or the ‘alphas’, and the usual blood thirsty pawns. Zack’s lens shows its usual sense of urgency and at the same time the ability to dramatise a seemingly simple moment — making the screen looks like a panel from a graphic novel.

Take for instance, a shot when the team of mercenaries flies off in a chopper, and the helicopter floats at the centre, with the backdrop of a massive red ball of a sun glowing in the setting sky. Or when the alpha zombie stands atop Las Vegas’s Statue of Liberty with a spear in hand and a cape, a half-broken mask covering his monstrous face.

With AOTD, Zack proves that he is on a roll. It’s a neat hat-trick for him, following the success of Dawn of the Dead and Synder’s Cut Justice League.

Mohammed Rayaan

Published on May 27, 2021

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