David Fincher once said that he makes two kinds of motion pictures: “films” and “movies”, films being something meaningful and good for the intellect; while movies are for kicking back and having a good time. Now, if Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a “film”, then Army Of The Dead is very much a “movie” – a B-movie to be exact, and a pretty great one too! I make no apologies for being a big Zack Snyder fan, I like what he does, what do you want me to do about it? And, if you ask me, anyone who thinks he full on “sucks” can, in turn, go suck Dr Manhattan’s big blue bald man, yes, *you! Hell, the only reason I couldn’t bring myself to review the Snyder Cut was because I couldn’t stop devolving the written piece into a sweary rant: about how everyone who said it didn’t exist (and then said it would suck before they even saw the damn thing) were basically telling studios that they don’t want proper films made by proper filmmakers, and are perfectly content with designed-by-committee conveyor belt cash grabs like the Josstice League! If those people were listened to, instead of the fans, then what would become of every film still yet to be shot? What would studios believe the public really wanted?
I don’t want to turn *this* review into a rant either so I’ll stop there… just let me cork the bottle with: if you’re one of those people who complained about anything, and everything, they possibly could before that film was even released (just to look cool on social media) – then not only do you not care about cinema, but you don’t deserve it either! Anyway, now that’s off my chest, here’s Army Of The Dead, a genre mish-mash spawned from the copulation of zombie-apocalypse and heist actioner. Las Vegas has been overrun by an organised tribe of zombies, from quick smart alphas to the classic slow dumb fodder (and even some alien-robot zombies scattered about the place – yes, really); it’s quarantined off to prevent the infection from spreading, and a rich guy hires Dave Batista and co to head into zombieland and retrieve some hefty dollars of his from inside a safe – before the government levels the city with a big atomic bang.
Now, putting the undeniable genius of the premise to one side for a moment, I can confidently say this isn’t the Zack-attack’s best work, it is admittedly on the empty side of things, not a whole lot going on upstairs if you know what I mean, and the characters, while they all have at least *something* to them – it’s not a whole lot. That being said, isn’t that the point of popcorn flicks like this? I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to use the word “great” when telling everyone I know about it, and forcing them to give it a watch because its action sequences are the real stars of the show, the third act kicks enough ass to appear on PSA’s about donkey abuse, and the zombies themselves are probably the second best ever in a movie (the first still being the infected from 28 days later).
The opening credit sequence itself is worthy of fixed eye-contact, as it comes close to rivalling Watchmen’s with how it compliments the coming narrative. I love how playful a story-teller can be with zombie lore and Snyder doesn’t miss a beat in giving us rotting chompers fit for the undead history books, they were my favourite part of the film (which is a pretty good thing for the movie’s sake) and I have to give special mention to Valentine, the zombie tigress: a tried and true show-stealer; her spotlight moment is just “whoah”! Zack’s first credited outing as a cinematographer brings an interesting deviation from most other Netflix originals that, like the MCU frankly, have a bad habit of looking a little interchangeable; it’s style employs an extremely shallow focus and lots of playing around with focus-pulls/racking that I thought were pretty fun. It’s quite hard to fiddle with shallow focus in such a controlled manner (the crew role of focus-puller being the most fired role in the bizz) and to stylise a whole movie that way is more than brave, but pulling it off is something else.
As usual with Zack, the FX are great, the action sequences seize attention like teeth to a throat, it can be shocking when characters meet their end yet funny at just the right moment, the stunts can’t go without mention because they’re perfect, and while I don’t care about it’s emotional moments as much as I do its full throttle blood letting – they’re still OK and get the job done well enough (which I guess is also how I would describe the characters, dialogue and some small sprinkles of social commentary about the poor treatment of immigrants in US – I didn’t care as much as the other stuff but it’s still good that it’s all there; don’t get me wrong). Oh yes, and if you didn’t know Tig Notaro was completely superimposed after filming had already wrapped – you would never guess! Honestly, there’s not a single second of her that stands out or presents any kind of mistake.
There’s really not much else to say about it, given the fact that surface-level entertainment is what the film strives for, and it’s very important to appreciate what the filmmakers’ intentions are. It’s insubstantial for sure, but that doesn’t always have to be a problem – it depends on the film; it’s really well shot, really well made overall in fact, I loved the music (score and soundtrack both), the brilliant make-up, and the amount of fun the cast seem to be having (as well as Zack himself) is as contagious as any plague. It’s a good time on Netflix, and that’s exactly what it wants to be.
Side note: can we, like, stop bitching and moaning about long runtimes without seeing the movies first? I mean talk about circumstantial, how could you possibly know it’s too long if you don’t ever WATCH it? Have you never heard of Lawrence of Arabia? Doctor Zhivago? Satantango? Or pretty much anything by Lav Diaz? If you ask me, the words “too long” don’t exactly mean an awful lot, as long as three-hour movies can fly by and 80 minute pieces of cack can drag on forever, then “too long” means absolutely nothing, it’s pacing that matters, not length. And if you decide a film is too long without watching it first, then fuck you, poser!