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Army of the Dead
Not everything needs to be political, people
I am seriously tired of everything being political.
I was initially not going to review this movie, as I made the mistake of reading other reviews right after watching it, and my opinions ended up kinda being colored, or tainted, by the observations of others. However, I then read this piece at The Daily Wire, and I suddenly had plenty to say about the movie…from a political perspective anyway.
The film is about a heist taking place in a quarantined and abandoned Las Vegas, as there’s a basement vault with $200 million. A veteran of the “zombie war” (the initial infection and resulting pandemic) is offered $50 million to split amongst whoever he chooses to accompany him on this heist, in order to retrieve the cash for the owner of the hotel the basement vault is in.
Sounds like crazy fun, right? And for the most part, it is. Zack Snyder, the director and writer of the film, is good at what he does – making mindless, action-packed eye candy. The story is paper thin, the characters underdeveloped, and some plot threads are just left dangling. I’m going to full on spoil the film, so if you’re interested, you might want to skip some parts of this review.
This film was shot in the summer of 2019 and I know that because I have a huge crush on one of the actors in this film, the gorgeous Matthias Schweighoefer, who plays the safe cracker. I follow his Instagram account and he posted quite a lot while he and the others were filming. This, of course, was obviously before the pandemic, but as I watched it, I couldn’t help but think of the pandemic and the lockdowns and all the other stupid crap we’ve had to go through.
The reason this film got annoyingly political is only because Zack Snyder and Matthias Schweighoefer have made it political, via interviews given to the (wretched) Associated Press.
I’ll get to his remarks in a minute.
So the film opens with a rather lengthy sequence featuring this random couple that just got married in Las Vegas. They’re driving down the highway, presumably to their honeymoon or whatever. Driving in the opposite direction is this military convoy, and the leaders of the convoy speculate as to what their payload is.
The bride decides to give her groom a blow job while he’s driving, and he gets so distracted that he drives right into the military convoy, causing a huge explosion and of course, unleashing the “payload” onto the world. The “payload” is a, uh, zombie, I guess, that happens to be locked in a small trailer or something. It’s blazing fast and it gets out, kills all the soldiers, and makes zombies out of two of them. Then they go on to Las Vegas, and the opening credits depicts the “zombie war” in which Las Vegas falls to Patient Zero (this is what I call him; I am not sure he is ever seen again, and not sure if the Zombie King we see later is the same one) and his two henchmen.
Credit sequence ends and of course, the hotel owner approaches the zombie war veteran, played by the smooth-brained asshole Dave Bautista, about retrieving the $200 million, since the US government has decided to nuke Las Vegas.
So after the mercenary team is assembled, they go in. Meanwhile, the veteran’s daughter is a volunteer at a refugee camp that happens to be situated on the outskirts of the “wall” (it’s made entirely of cargo trailers) surrounding Las Vegas. This refugee camp is supposed to house people suspected of being “infected” with whatever it is that makes the zombies.
Obviously, here’s the first big problem with the story. Where Patient Zero came from is never explained. What Patient Zero is infected with, if anything, is never explained. How the hell this THING that makes the zombies into zombies got out of the walled-off Las Vegas and infected anyone outside of it is also never explained.
“We were building a wall. We were creating these refugee camps,” he added. “We needed to kind of use those things to hold up a mirror to ourselves … Once you erect a giant wall around a city, you really find yourself referencing all kinds of laws that have been created for all different reasons. And I think your awareness of those things really is important.”
Okay, what are they refugees from? Las Vegas isn’t anywhere near Mexico, so this analogy doesn’t work…at all. The veteran’s daughter, Kate, is kind of friends with one of the refugees, Geeta, who has two children. We don’t know where Geeta and her kids are from (the actress who plays her is from India, so I guess they’re Indian?) or why the military thinks they’re infected. They’re just in this random camp that’s literally outside the walls of Las Vegas. You’d think they’d all be quarantined in a hospital where they can be observed and treated. But Zack Snyder has something to say about muh immigration, and he’s going to say it, even if it comes across as utterly lazy, incoherent and stupid.
Erecting a giant wall around a city is very, very different to erecting a wall along a country’s border.
The wall in this movie was made to keep a population of highly contagious beings away from the general population, for obvious reasons.
Trump’s border wall is meant to keep people from sneaking into this country without following the proper immigration procedures. For God’s sake, according to this site, you can be fined, imprisoned for up to six months or BOTH for illegally entering the US the first time. The penalties are harsher for repeated illegal entries after deportation, and God help you if you end up committing a felony while being in the US illegally.
And the whole separation of children from the adults they’re accompanying…note I did not use the word “parents” because in a lot of cases, the adults these children are with are not their parents or even related to them. In all likelihood, women and children are being trafficked over the border by coyotes from the cartels, and we’re supposed to just let it happen because stupid idiots like Zack Snyder thinks all these people are big happy Partridge families.
It’s fucking ridiculous that I’ve spent so much time writing about politics on a god damn zombie heist movie, BUT THAT’S WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU TAKE MINDLESS ENTERTAINMENT AND TURN IT INTO SOME BULLSHIT POLITICAL STATEMENT.
Let me get into why this whole analogy is utterly asinine in the first place. The “refugee camps” he mentions are nowhere near as enclosed off as the actual Las Vegas is. The camp consists of flimsy-looking walls that have huge openings. When the plan to nuke Las Vegas is revealed, the inhabitants of the camps are evacuated by bus (this is how the mercenaries get to the city in the first place; since Kate is a volunteer at the camp, she uses one of their buses to drive them in).
The first thing anyone would think of when connecting this movie to the situation on the border is the wall keeping the zombies in Las Vegas.
So, essentially, what he’s really doing is comparing all those illegals he loves so much to the bloodthirsty zombies that have to be kept away from the general public for painfully obvious reasons, zombies that kill off 98% of this ensemble cast simply because they can’t help themselves.
Good job, fuckwit!
Then we get this bit from the lovely and utterly handsome Matthias Schweighoefer:
German actor Matthias Schweighofer, who stars alongside Dave Bautista in the film, said that his experiences in East Germany (where a wall was erected to keep people in) made him yearn for a world without borders.
“I was born behind a wall in the east of Germany and the wall came down and I always thought as I traveled through the world, ‘I don’t want a wall back in my life. I don’t want any borders back,’” he said.
Not only is he seriously hot, but he seems like a genuinely nice guy (not that I ever thought he was conservative – I mean, come on…he’s German), so I won’t go too hard on him. I will say this: borders are not evil. They are not the problem. They certainly aren’t the problem in the movie. Furthermore, the wall in the movie is important because without it, the virus or whatever it is that makes people into zombies would spread to the entire world, possibly making human beings extinct. I totally understand why he loves the idea of being able to travel freely, because as another German actor said, for those in East Germany, you quite obviously couldn’t travel freely. He was only, like, nine years old when the Berlin Wall fell, but I am sure he probably remembers what life was like before the country was reunified. And I am sure his parents probably told him all about what life was like.
And, as The Daily Wire said, the Berlin Wall was meant to keep people inside. Another German actor, Thomas Krestchmann (who blocked me on Instagram when I pointed out that he fell for fake news regarding Trump), is a little older (has also worked with Matthias in a couple of movies) and literally escaped East Germany because he actually wanted to decide for himself what he wanted to do with his life. So, as I said, I get that. But borders themselves aren’t bad. Every nation should have the right to decide who gets to enter and who gets to be citizens. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
Let’s get back to the movie. After a lengthy recruitment montage, the group finally gets to Vegas. Of course, Kate just has to go with her father because Geeta has gone into the city the night before, chasing after the same fortune the mercenaries are after. She wants to go because Geeta never came back, and has left her two children behind. So there’s this argument between the two, and I’m thinking, “why doesn’t Kate stay with Geeta’s two children? Who is going to look after them?”
Geeta’s two kids are never seen or heard from again, because Zack Snyder basically forgot about them. Kate joins the crew to look for Geeta, but I guess it doesn’t matter what happens to the kids, unless they managed to get on the last bus out of the camp, which is still kind of messed up because as far as they know, they’re orphans now.
The march through Las Vegas is mindless action fun. Most of the group, save for the safe cracker, Dieter (played by my man Matthias, of course) is already quite efficient at handling weapons and killing zombies.
The crew is accompanied by the hotel owner’s security goon, and it’s obvious that he’s the bad guy. Later on, we find out that he’s there to get a sample of zombie blood, but for some truly stupid reason, thinks that getting the Zombie Queen’s freaking head is a much better idea, AFTER one of the characters told him that not only do you have to appease these rather intelligent zombies with a sacrifice, but that attacking their Queen would basically break the semi-truce they made with said sacrifice.
And she was right. The Zombie King, who may or may not be Patient Zero, finds the headless body of his queen, takes her back to his lair and removes their fetus from her body and shows it to his zombie subjects.
Then the hunt is on, as the King is out for revenge.
Meanwhile, Dieter takes all of thirty minutes to crack the safe. For a safe named Götterdammerung, you’d think it’d take a lot longer than half an hour to crack, but whatever.
By the time they reach the safe and get it cracked, everything is very predictable. Those that made it to the safe intact are swiftly killed off, no thanks to the vengeful Zombie Army that the security goon unwittingly unleashed. That kickass zombie tiger basically eats his head for lunch in a rather gory sequence.
Also, a character swaps the Zombie Queen’s head for the bill counter machine they brought with him, so he never actually gets to fulfill his mission. She ends up dropping the head onto the pavement, allowing the remaining survivors to escape in a helicopter.
The only people that survive are Geeta (because Kate just had to break off from the group to go save her), the veteran, and the helicopter pilot.
I liked this ensemble cast. All of the women are badass, especially Chambers, who is the first to die, but she goes out with one hell of a fight. Vanderohe and Dieter are fantastic together, and I would have loved a buddy film with those two. Dieter and the helicopter pilot serve as comedy relief, as Dieter is definitely not combat ready and is kind of naïve, while the helicopter pilot, played by Tig Notaro, is snarky and sarcastic.
A lot of people like to say that Dave Bautista is underrated or whatever, but I think he’s meh…the only time I really liked his performance was in a flashback scene, where he has to kill his wife, right in front of his daughter Kate, because the wife is infected and was trying to break down Kate’s door. A visceral and heart wrenching scene. I think I’m just biased. I personally do not like him, but he gets the job done in this movie, I guess.
The movie really isn’t all that political at all. It’s the promotion and the comments made by the director and cast that make it political. The same thing could be said of Captain Marvel which didn’t strike me as all that political, and probably wouldn’t have gotten such a backlash from people like me if it weren’t for the obnoxious promotional campaign and the stupid shit Brie Larson and others said.
There were two moments that were political – the first, when the mercenaries enter the quarantine zone (which includes the refugee camps and Las Vegas). US constitutional law does not apply in the quarantine zone, and Dave Bautista’s character states that the Zombie Kingdom is freer than the US, which is just freaking asinine. I don’t even have to say anything else about that, because any idiot knows that a zombie-infected zone is total anarchy, where no one’s rights are even acknowledged much less respected, which is the exact opposite of free.
The second political moment comes when it is revealed that the President moves up the nuking of Las Vegas by a day to coincide with Independence Day, even going so far as to state that the explosion would look “cool” or something. The President is never seen or named, but it is implied that the President in question is Trump.
I shrugged both of these moments off when I saw the movie, and I still think they’re rather mild, but decided to include them in this review.
Let me point out some more flaws in the story – as noted, the origins of Patient Zero and what the government knows about it is never explained. How people outside Las Vegas get infected is never explained. What happens to Geeta’s children after Kate decides to go rescue her is never explained. How these zombie got so intelligent is only partially explained – the zombies created by the Zombie King are the fast, semi-intelligent ones. The dregs are the rest of them, of which sleep while standing up and can be woken by rain or something.
The only character backstories we get are for the main character and his daughter. The others are just bit players.
Las Vegas is indeed nuked, and after their helicopter crashes, we are treated to a scene in which Vanderohe escapes the safe he had been locked in (Dieter heroically locks him in the safe while fighting off the zombies) with bags of cash. There’s no way he’d survive the radiation fallout, assuming the safe actually served as an adequate bomb shelter. But he does, and let’s just say the movie is set up for a sequel.
I know there’s going to be two prequels – a movie directed by and starring Matthias Scheighoefer, called Army of Thieves which will show us how Dieter ended up becoming a master safe cracker, and an anime series exploring the background of Scott Ward, Dave Bautista’s character.
Despite this review that’s mostly political and is now close to three thousand words, I still liked this movie. I didn’t expect it to be a masterpiece. It’s not, and I’d also say that it’s a little too long, but it’s not the worst in the world. I don’t respect Zack Snyder as person after what he did to Geeks and Gamers (read about that here). Now he’s insisting to the world that he’s a good little Democrat and dragging down apolitical actors like Schweighoefer into his woke nightmare, and it’s depressing, but this movie is okay, I guess. It’s worth a single viewing if you can only stomach that, given how awful Hollywood is and all.
As I said, I just wish that everything wasn’t political. This movie is a silly zombie heist movie. If you don’t have high expectations and can set aside the politics that have been foisted onto the movie, you might find it enjoyable.