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Army of the Dead: Snyder revisits the genre that put him on the map

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Watching it now!  10 minutes in and I like it so far!  :)

With his post-DCEU film Snyder is having fun playing in the pools that first ‘made’ him in Hollywood.  Sure, he’s copying his best instincts and ideas, but all artists do that (I _LOVE_ Scorsese and his most recent THE IRISHMAN, but it’s undeniable that at times he’s absolutely riffing from his past work).  Snyder here is seemingly not only having fun in what many consider a worn-out genre while also looking to top everyone who put their mark on the genre: including himself.

ARMY OF THE DEAD is at its best when Snyder (who co-wrote the screenplay from his own story as well as shot the film - acting as his own Director of Cinematography) plays into the fun and perilous aspects of the two genres.  ARMY feels a lot like ALIENS meets OCEAN’S 11 and I don’t mean that in a bad way.  In fact, the movie most engaging when playing to those tropes, including Snyder's own.  The opening scene + opening titles sequence is top notch, even if it feels like Snyder riffing on his own DAWN OF THE DEAD (itself a riff on the George Romero absolute zombie masterpiece)

The film IS Cliched as HELL, riffing on not just zombie movies but action genre: including ALIENS with character tropes and even themes/lines.  For ex: “You don’t see them screwing each other over” is almost a direct line quote of Ripley, and just like ALIENS said here by a BAMF lady (Lily the ‘coyote,’ played by Nora Arnezeder who acts as the mercenaries’ guide into the zombie quarantine zone) to a ‘company man’ (played by character actor Garret Dillahunt).
That being said, as an avid ALEINS fan the parallels get annoying at times.  Maybe ALIENS has cliched story beats as well, but at times ARMY just feels flat-out ripping rather than merely riffing (for example when the ‘company man’ get what he came for and quickly turns on Lily to leave her and the rest of the soldiers to die.  Aaaand just like ALIENS he get a surprise demise (though here it’s far ore graphic - and more fun/less subtle - than Cameron delivered in ALIENS 35 years ago)

When the film tries to delve in family drama (Bautista’s Scott trying to mend his strained relationship w/daughter Kate) the film lags markedly.  I get how Snyder is almost certainly drawing on personal trauma of his own here, and I don’t begrudge him this pseudo-therapy.  But the film is at its worst and most draggy in those moments that didn’t work for me.

The ‘alpha’ zombies are a really interesting idea, and maybe Snyder’s loan addition to the zombie canon: feels like a mashup of conventional zombie movies w/the creatures in I AM LEGEND who think and act vs mindless zombies stalking only for food.  They ‘run’ the inside zombie “quarantine zone” and are the biggest threats to the crew.  They have their own society and hierarchy with a queen.  When “company man” Martin takes out the alpha queen due to nefarious reasons (again, see ALIENS and Carter Burke), you know the crew is even greater peril.  The Alphas show legit emotion (for example, one mourning the death of the queen), and when they ‘go to battle’ they protect their brains w/armor.  They also seemingly procreate and make babies: ie Snyder taking the “zombie baby” idea from his DAWN to the next level here - wow! 
BUT, the alphas are fairly half-baked: a cool concept that is mostly just extra zombie fodder for our heroes.  The concept doesn't go as far as it could, IMO, and that's a detriment.  Walking away from the film at the end I can't help but think either Snyder didn't have time to develop the idea (because of the father/daughter/family drama stuff) or just didn't have much to add.  What I said above about the alpha stuff is pretty much all they are.

The alpha stuff is easily the most compelling part of the story arch!  I personally would’ve preferred Snyder drop ALL of the cliched, dopey father/daughter drama (as well as the relationship drama w/Bautista and his girlfriend soldier) to make this a tighter action thriller.  I get what Snyder was going for w/the character family dynamic stuff, but it just adds to a run-time that already feels overly long and feels like stuff that could’ve been cut to make this a tighter film.

The characters are mostly fun, especially the ‘audience avatar’ of Dieter the safecracker (played with terrifying glee by Matthias Schweighofer).  Lilly the ‘coyote’ delivers much of the in-film exposition with some added weight.  Many of the other characters are ably played though mostly cliched (and, as any genre fan will quickly access, will likely zombie fodder).  I often enjoy Garret Dillahunt who plays ‘bad guy’ well.  And Tig Novaro*, cast after the film was shot and did ALL of her work in coverage by herself and was inserted via green screen and CGI, does a great job though the “seams” of her situation are glaring if one knows what to look at; it didn’t bother me, as Novaro is always a joy on screen. 

Snyder’s cinematography is well done: he has a clear visual style that moviegoers have seen since his film film and his output has been consistent throughout his directing career.  I personally dig his visual style and he does a real good job filming his own movie (a rarity - for example, even Kubrick, who was incredibly explicit about every aspect of his films, including his shots, relied on his DP to film)

Junkie XL’s score here feels mostly trite/by-the-numbers.  It has its moments (especially during the more tense story beats).  But his music during the dramatic character scenes feel just as trite as the narrative.  More interesting to me are the pop needle drops: mostly covers/reimaginings that work well for the scenes, though sometimes a bit on-the-nose (Cranberries’ “Zombie,” for example)

And the ending….
I don’t know if this end worked for me.  One aspect did, but if the father-daughter stuff ultimately failed for me, so does its conclusion/climax.  Snyder almost certainly made this film in a dark place (between the Justice League uber drama & his family trauma) and the end certainly reflects that dark place.  IMO the tone of the end doesn’t quite match the tone of the rest of the film.  I didn’t hate it, per say, but it’s a bit of a negative for me (and don’t get me wrong: I love a good ‘downer’ ending when done well - this one just didn’t do it for me)

ARMY OF THE DEAD is mostly entertaining.  At it’s best it rides the lines between fun heist movie + perilous zombie horror.  But like much of Snyder’s most recent films, this is a bit too long and could stand to be edited down a bit.  When Snyder dabbles in relationship drama it doesn’t work for me.  The comic banter in the dialogue also feel a tad amateurish at times: or at least a little too forced and inorganic.  This feels at times Snyder is trying to recreate his magic of DAWN OF THE DEAD without the awesome James Gunn writing dialogue for him.  Your tolerance for Snyder’s slow-mo will vary: I personally think it’s a bit overused, but it is effective at times.  When I walk out of a movie, there are typically three reactions: 1) LOVING the movie 2) really not liking the movie 3) being frustrated knowing there are elements of a good film in there that just didn't quite come to fruition for whatever reason.
ARMY OF THE DEAD is reaction 3 - where I'm almost annoyed that the best parts of a 2.5 hour movie are still under-developed, the star characters are saddled with dopey family drama that doesn't quite work, and an ending that could've been legit good (and likely would've solidified my opinion more into a "liking this quite a bit with some caveats) had it ended a few minutes sooner.  I tend to get more picky with movies that were almost good, and ARMY OF THE DEAD is definitely "almost a good movie."  The film has it's bright spots for sure: with a solid cast, a broadly-fun premise, well-shot & stylish look.  But ultimately I think the film also has juuuust enough failings to land it in the "there are probably better ways to spend 147 minutes of your time" bin.  I'm not exactly pissed that I spent the time with this movie, but unless you're a Snyder fanatic, a HUGE zombie fan (though FWIW that's also me), or someone a lot less critical than I am, I'd probably sit this one out.

- POTUS is mentioned in news reports a few times, and it’s hard not to think this was made with Trump in mind.  One quote read in a news program in regards to the nuking of Vegas to coincide with the July 4th fireworks has POTUS saying it would be “Really cool and the ultimate fireworks show” and “actually kind of patriotic if you think about it.” I lol’ed
- For those who don’t know, Chris D’Elia cilmed the pilot role summer of 2019.  In summer of 2020 stories broke about him pursuing underage girls as well as sexual harassment accusations so Snyder hired Notaro to replace him well after-the-fact.

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Transmute Jun:
You are not allowed to view links. Register or LoginI really respect your reviews Transmute Jun.  So now I'm really afraid to spend the time watching it.  :(

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Keep in mind, I've just seen the beginning (courtesy of a Netflix preview). I enjoyed that part. I had just heard other people say that the rest was not as good. In the end, I'll probably watch it the next time we do a Netflix month, but it likely won't be at the top of my list.

Did not need to be this long…I fast forwarded through the father-daughter conversation at the generator and the love confession from the mechanic prior to her demise.  Plot holes irritated me a little.  Geeta was an important plot point, but no mention of her fate at the end seemed weird. And I’m just going to never understand how a billionaire doesn’t have the combo to his own safe. I guess every team has to have a reason for the nerdy tech guy

Sent from my ???? using

You are not allowed to view links. Register or LoginI watched the first 15 minutes, through the opening title sequence. I thought it was fun, but it felt like there was nowhere to go from there. I've seen some reviews that suggest the title sequence is the highlight, and that it goes downhill from there, that the characters wear too much plot armor, and that the most unique part of the zombies is basically ignored.

I haven't seen the rest of the film, but I'm wondering if it's worth it the next time I subscribe to Netflix...

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With your thoughts in mind, I tried watching this film.  I gave up after 15 mins.  Oh well.  You are still my advisory beacon of what is good and what isn't Transmute Jun.


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