You might call it a Zack attack: riding the cape-tails of Snyder’s four-hour cut of Justice League comes his two-and-a-half-hour zombie heist movie Army Of The Dead. But it’s an action-thriller he’s been planning since taking the zzzzz out of zombies with his 2004 rocket-heeled remake of Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead.
The concept’s high as a kite, as ex-military hero Scott Ward (Dave Bautista) leads a ragtag team into a walled-off Las Vegas, playground of the walking (and sprinting) dead, to steal $200m from an underground vault. They have 32 hours until a nuke scours the city of its sin.
Yep, it’s Ocean’s Eleven meets Escape From New York, with zombies. The opening credits suggest the whole thing will be a hoot: neon-pink writing stamped over a montage of carnage. Showgirl zombies in feather boas! An Elvis zombie! Strafing planes bombing the teeming Strip! Blood blooms fierce in casinos and flowers of flame engulf landmarks.
But from there, at least until a gloriously madcap final half-hour, things settle down. There’s a world to build and a raft of characters to introduce, as Ward rounds up Tig Notaro’s chopper pilot, Matthias Schweighöfer’s safecracker, Raúl Castillo’s zombie-killing social-media influencer (!) and too many more to mention. Well, maybe we should mention Ella Purnell’s Kate – she’s Ward’s estranged daughter and allows for some emotional beats amid scenes of a zombie tiger biting someone’s face off and a casino being machine-gunned to smithereens as zombies chomp and banknotes twirl in the air. It’s hardly subtle, but nor was Romero’s Dawn of the Dead in its satire of consumerism.
Army of the Dead is too long while still leaving much unexplained – animated series Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas and prequel movie Army of Thieves will take care of that – and it only touches upon the intriguing idea of the government using the zombie plague to strip away civil liberties. But it’s plenty fun, whether changing up the established rules of the Z-movie or offering set-pieces, gung-ho in slo-mo, choreographed to covers of Elvis’ "Viva Las Vegas", The Doors’ "The End" and an acoustic version of The Cranberries’ "Zombie". Snyder’s army of fans will devour it whole; others might find it by turns bland and flavorsome, and will certainly experience some bloating.
Army of the dead is in select cinemas in the US from May 14, and available on Netflix worldwide from May 21. For more, check out the best Netflix movies out now.