It's safe to say that Zack Snyder is having a pretty good year so far. His director's cut of Justice League was finally released in March, and now we're getting his zombie heist action thriller Army of the Dead, which he directed and co-wrote with Joby Harold and Shay Hatten. The cast features Dave Bautista (who turned down a role in James Gunn's upcoming The Suicide Squad for this part), Ella Purnell, Ana de la Reguera, Matthias Schweighöfer, Nora Arnezeder, and Tig Notaro.
In Army of the Dead, a group of mercenaries take the ultimate gamble after a zombie outbreak in Las Vegas, journeying into the quarantine zone to pull off a huge heist. The action thriller will debut in select theaters on May 14 and then on Netflix on May 21 (and, by the way, this release is a huge deal for Netflix). Early reactions of the film have already been posted on social media, and they were mostly positive! Now critics have started releasing their reviews, so let’s take a look.
Those aforementioned early reactions praised the opening credits of Army of the Dead, and that’s also seen in Eric Kohn’s review for IndieWire. He even gave the opening credits a mini-review of its own, praising it as Snyder’s most satisfying bit of filmmaking since his directorial debut of the Dawn of the Dead remake. Unfortunately, Kohn thought that the rest of the movie couldn't quite rise to that same epic level, as the thriller is too familiar and the storytelling is too uneven, but he still found it largely enjoyable. He said:
Snyder’s a true believer in go-for-broke escapism and at its best, the mayhem in Army of the Dead is an infectious zombie bite of its own.
David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter also commended the opening credits, as well as many other aspects of Army of the Dead. He praised Snyder for the “infectious” sense of humor in the zombie flick, as well as the screenplay, the natural inclusivity, and his “exhilaratingly nimble” cinematography (Snyder served as his own cinematographer here). Rooney definitely enjoyed the action blockbuster, giving credit to almost every aspect of the movie, and said overall:
The energy and inventiveness on display at all levels here — not to mention the sly humor — make Army of the Dead an ass-kicking epic franchise debut.
Hannah Strong of Little White Lies was pretty critical of the movie. She considered the storyline of Army of the Dead too familiar, arguing that the film underserves a lot of interesting characters. She also thought that the storytelling left too much on the table, noting that it could have delved deeper into plot implications. Strong said:
It’s a shame that Army of the Dead falls so flat, because the concept of a zombie heist movie is undeniably intriguing, particularly at a time when we all need a little escapism.
Owen Gleiberman of Variety argued that if you only see one movie this year, make it Army of the Dead, because it has something for everyone to enjoy. He does criticize the length of the film and the fact that it feels put together from pieces of other movies, but he overall enjoyed the zombie heist thriller. Gleiberman said:
It’s a stylishly grandiose, muscular but conventional popcorn pageant that’s got something for just about everyone.
There are certainly more than a few criticisms to be had in Chris Evangelista’s review for SlashFilm. Though he noted that Snyder sure seemed to be having fun with the film, giving special credit to the opening credits (definitely sensing a pattern here), he criticized the storytelling. Evangelista called Army of the Dead too chaotic, noting that the action lacks any kind of style and that too many characters are total duds. He called the flick “exhausting,” saying:
There’s a certain fun to be had in Army of the Dead, but it’s the mindless, ugly fun that you wake up the next day regretting. Come to think of it, it’s kind of like a trip to Las Vegas.