Note: The writer of this review watched Army Of The Dead on a digital screenerfrom home. Before making the decision to see it—or any other film—in a movie theater, please consider the health risks involved. Here’san interview on the matter with scientific experts.
Say what you will about the bombastic rock-video opuses of Zack Snyder, but the man does know how to open a picture, doesn’t he? The director of some of the dourestsuperhero movies of the last decade has, if nothing else, mastered the lost art of the opening credits sequence—a talent he flexes once more at the onset of his palette-cleansing new film, the action-horror hybrid Army Of The Dead. Through his signature style of near-tableau, Snyder depicts the fall of a Las Vegas overrun with ghouls. A Liberace impersonator is devoured by his dancers. A parachuting soldier floats helplessly into a horde, his billowing chute becoming a canvas painted bright red. Dropped bombs engulf the strip in gorgeous plumes of blue and orange. All this carnage is, naturally, set to the ironic tune of an Elvis cover and stamped with hot-pink text, creating a pageant of doomsday excess, a Sin City literally consumed by sinful appetite. It may be the best introductory montage to a Zack Snyder movie since, well, the Johnny Cash end-of-the-world blur that kicked off the filmmaker’s first feature and last visit to the zombie apocalypse, his Dawn Of The Dead remake.
Though the title and screeching main attractions imply otherwise, Army Of The Dead is not a continuation of that earlier movie, tonally or narratively. Rather than dabble again in the take-no-prisoners nihilism of his debut (what a proudly hopeless note on which to launch a career!), Snyder has slammed together an ecstatic pop-art genre pastiche, all familiar parts slathered in an appealing blockbuster polish. It’s at once his Aliens, his Ocean’s Eleven, and his Wild Bunch. One might call it his Suicide Squad, too, if that didn’t imply that the Man Of Steel director were still navigating a thunderously grim superhero universe of his own design, when he has in fact left it behind for one arguably just as indebted to the graphic component of graphic novels, just with a smaller helping of heavy-handed handwringing. This is a new kind of Snyder cut: fleet and almost breezy, even at a characteristically extended 2 1/2 hours.