What Went Wrong With ‘Army of the Dead?’
Army of the Dead just arrived on Netflix, and for many, it was one of Netflix’s most anticipated Originals of 2021. Sadly, Army of the Dead didn’t quite live up to expectation, and here’s why.
While it’s easy to just say “the plot was rubbish” I’m going to try my best to dissect what I disliked about Army of the Dead.
Aside from the opening montage which showcased the fall of Las Vegas, the majority of the plot was either generic or just went out of its way to insult the intelligence of the audience. It’s extremely hard to leave your brain at the door when your mind can’t help but point out all of the stupid moments throughout.
You can pick holes in practically every scene and destroy the logic twice over but I’ll be taking aim at some of the biggest sins this movie committed.
The Generic Heist Backstab Twist
In every heist story ever there is always going to be a person screwing over the crew for one reason or another. So trust Zack Snyder to fall into this writing troupe in the worse way possible.
Martin, Tanaka’s head of security, reveals that he was only there to ensure that a sample from one of the alpha zombies would make it to the hands of his boss, where the casino owner could sell it on for billions of dollars as a BWMD (Bio Weapon of Mass Destruction).
The more I think about it, the more it annoys me just how bad this pivotal moment of the plot actually is. All of the writing that came before and after the not so shocking twist completely insults the intelligence of the audience.
Literally, the only person who knew what Martin was up to was Lilly, who was paid to keep her mouth shut in exchange for letting everyone out of the refugee camps. Lilly was already guilty of letting refugees into Vegas so that they could make enough money to pay their way out of the camps, and while she claims she never left anyone behind that she didn’t have to, the guilt of those that have died on those runs got the better of her. Such a paragon of justice.
After extracting the head of the queen zombie there was no need for Martin to go back with Lilly to rejoin the heist crew. The pair was literally less than a minute’s walk to the entrance of the quarantine zone, and if Lilly didn’t comply what was stopping Martin from shooting her if he already planned on killing her and the others anyway? He could just have easily left the zombies of Las Vegas to do the job of killing the heist crew for him, just like he tried to do when he locked them all in the vault corridor.
This ploy of using an inside man just to extract a sample from one of the zombies was so convoluted. Tanaka may as well have just hired a team to directly extract the sample he needed and used the money inside the vault as his leverage.
How should the plot have been changed?
A few simple changes could have made for a more coherent story.
First of all, the reason for Tanaka hiring a team would be altered slightly. I would have written it so that Tanaka would hire Scott, and a team of his choosing, to go into Las Vegas in order to extract an item of extreme importance to him. What the item is would be on a need-to-know basis, but in exchange for their co-operation and silence, Tanaka would offer the entire contents of the vault to Scott and his crew, all $200 million.
Secondly, the item in question would be the zombified wife of Tanaka, who is located in the penthouse of Tanaka’s casino. This would present an ethical dilemma for the heist crew, while also playing into the themes of loss that we’d already seen with Scott who lost his wife during the outbreak.
The twist would be that Tanaka’s wife is believed to be just a normal zombie, but as she was weakened by being trapped within the penthouse it’s revealed that she is one of Zeus’s alpha zombies. So when she lets out a guttural scream, it alerts some of the nearby alpha zombies, including the Queen, who investigates. The ensuing conflict would lead to the death of the Queen which then leads to the conflict between Zeus and the heist crew.
Bland and Stupid Characters
Other than Dieter, most of the characters from Army of the Dead are extremely bland, incredibly stupid, or both. While Dieter stands in the shade of stupid, mainly due to his cowardice, at the very least Matthias Schweighöfer’s portrayal of the character was funny and charming and easily the best character in the movie.
Mikey’s friend Damon gets less than 30 seconds of screentime but became the smartest character of the entire movie, who upon realizing that the heist would involve zombies swiftly opted out, while also correctly predicting that everyone involved in the job would die.
Also, one of the stupidest moments in the entire movie is when Chambers is able to crash through a window while trying to escape the zombies, and despite being a little more than twenty feet away from her none of the characters come to her rescue.
While this issue may be more to do with the plot than characters, not once did anyone involved in the heist question how they were supposed to fit themselves and $200 million of cash inside of one small helicopter. A quick search online revealed that $200 million in one-hundred-dollar bills weighs two tonnes! What’s also funny is how none of the characters question how small their cut is when they discover the sheer volume of money they are supposed to be moving.
The Nuke Ex-Machina
Of course, the worst-case scenario just had to happen, that the US government would move the launch of the Nuke twenty-four hours ahead of schedule. Because being in a quarantine zone with zombies wasn’t tense enough for the heist crew, they now had to contend with getting into the vault, extracting the money, and escaping Las Vegas before nuclear annihilation.
A simple change to the story could have easily handled why the US government moved the nuke ahead of schedule. And it all could have been because of Mikey Guzman.
When we’re introduced to Mikey it’s revealed he is a social media sensation for his zombie-killing exploits. So what better way for a social media-driven character to screw everything up for everyone than by live-streaming their heist in secret? Unknown to the rest of the crew, his live stream could have gone viral, revealing to the masses that zombie tigers and alpha zombies exist. It’s very plausible that news of this would have reached the ears of the US Government, giving them a perfectly good reason to move the Nuke launch twenty-four hours ahead of time.
On my first watch of the movie, I didn’t even realize that some of the zombies are robots. But Zack Snyder has addressed the matter in a Q&A when addressing the lore of Army of the Dead:
I had the idea from the beginning that these zombies were going to embody an evolution, the they were on their way to becoming something else, not stagnant like the zombies we’re used to. It was a way to make them fresh, while still delivering the zombie canon in some ways.
I really wanted this sort of weird ambiguity to their origins — which, of course, we’ll explore in the animated series, Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas, And without giving away too much… If you pay close attention, there’s a number of zombies that are clearly not zombies. You see normal zombies and then you see some robot zombies. Are they monitors that the government has placed among the zombies to monitor them? Are they technology from the other world? What’s happening there?
Army of the Dead takes place in a fictional world where a rogue alien gives rise to a zombie outbreak, so the idea of robot zombies isn’t beyond all the realms of possibility? I could take the origins of zombie robots being from another world, but the idea that the government crafted them to monitor zombies is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.
And why? Because if the US Government has the capability to create such life-like robots, that can be programmed to imitate zombies, then why have they not crafted robots to go into Vegas and kill the zombies. Especially at the height of the outbreak when god knows how many civilians and military personnel were dying.
One of the more annoying sub-plots of the entire film is Kate’s mission to save Geeta, one of the refugees Zeus kidnapped for zombification. It surmounted to the square root of nothing in the end because when the helicopter crashes with everyone on board, in the aftermath Geeta is nowhere to be seen. It’s also unknown if the children Kate was so desperate for Geeta to get back to actually escape the nuclear bomb as it was never established if the remaining refugees were being moved when the bomb dropping was moved ahead of schedule.
In the end, Kate was the only survivor of the entire heist. Hooray. I couldn’t think of a character more deserving than her to survive despite putting herself, and others in danger for the sake of her rescue mission.
The ending ending
If you were bitten by a zombie, how long would it take before you noticed it? Also, how long would it take before you turned after being bitten? Well according to the Army of the Dead (and every other zombie movie except 28 Days Later) when a person turns is entirely reliant on when the plot deems it relevant.
After being pushed into the vault by Dieter to save his life, Vanderohe is able to escape the vault and surfaces in the aftermath of the nuke being dropped on Las Vegas. It’s not till later that the Nuclear fallout has an impact on Vanderohe, but for now, he takes the bags of cash and makes his way to a car walking potentially for several miles and for several hours. He swiftly drives to an airport in Utah, where he is able to use his cash to charter a flight. While onboard with two pretty female flight attendants, and toasting with champagne, Vanderohe takes a turn for the worse and goes to the bathroom. It’s here we see that he is suffering from radiation burns, along with the fact he was actually bitten by Zeus and is likely minutes away from turning into an alpha zombie just as the plane is about to land in Mexico City.
Between the time spent in the vault and just before he boarded a flight to Mexico, you’re seriously telling us, the audience, that Vanderohe never once realized that he had been bitten? Don’t kid us wrong, that is one clean bite, with little to no blood but judging by the size of the chompers that looks like it would hurt like hell.
We already know that Netflix is down the Army of the Dead rabbit hole, as we’ll be receiving multiple Originals set within the franchise in the near future. The ending all but confirms there is an option for a sequel to Army of the Dead if Netflix wishes it.
What were your thoughts on Army of the Dead? Let us know in the comments below!