By now, you’ve probably watched Army of the Dead again and again. And again. But now there’s another reason to press rewind on Zack Snyder’s new Netflix movie – the emergence of a theory that suggests the characters have all been here before…
Army of the Dead time loop theory explained
Midway through the movie in Bly’s casino, Dieter (Matthias Schweighöfer) notices a group of dead bodies with suspiciously similar clothing to the current crew. They seemingly tried – and failed – to break into Tanaka’s vault. Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick) throws out an out-of-character meta line about whether it’s "another team… or is it us?" This line is the key to unlocking one of the most out-of-left-field theories we've seen in a while.
Vanerohe explains, "It could be us in another timeline and we’re caught in some infinite loop of fighting and dying and fighting and dying."
Then, it gets deeper. Vanderohe describes Tanaka as something far greater: "The puppetmaster, the devil, God. We’re… simply pawns in some in some perverse play where we’re destined to repeat our failures. Finally, in some mind-bending, ironic reveal – it all begins again."
Food for thought. A meta commentary on high concept movies – or is Army of the Dead a high concept itself? There is actually some serious evidence floating around that it’s the latter and actually a time loop.
Army of the Dead’s passionate (and observant) fanbase has rounded up some of the best and most compelling arguments in favor of a time loop theory. But let’s start at the bodies. There, one shares a key that is identical to Maria’s own necklace, and there is more than one reference to this being the fourth time they're heading to the casino in the loop.
“I shot her 3 times”“Actually it was 4”#ArmyOfTheDead pic.twitter.com/vMlWXDj8xcMay 22, 2021
So, about the whole four thing. There’s also three AKs tucked away in the corner of the vault during Dieter's dream sequence. The vault should have been unopened for years – yet these weapons are the same as Guzman’s own gun. Does this mean we’ve been here before and three times to be exact?
Also in this scene you see 3 of Guzmans Ak's on the wall, meaning this is the 4th time they went in pic.twitter.com/iHPUyDQv4IMay 23, 2021
There are also various nods to other timelines and other events occurring differently throughout the movie. Dieter dreams up a zombie siege during a montage as Tanaka explains the grand heist during the first actor of the movie. Some fans think it was actually Snyder giving the viewer a peek into a successful at snagging the money first time around – all thanks to the inclusion of Guzman’s friend.
Let’s say the multiverse and timeline theory is correct; what if the mission brief montage we saw was itself an alternate timeline where things went smoothly.Notice how Mikey’s friend is present there but then he bails out after. Could have changed things.#ArmyOfTheDead pic.twitter.com/oeXx1h9SfOMay 22, 2021
Similarly, we can’t discount the prevailing theory that the Army of the Dead ending is, in fact, a different timeline. There, Vanderohe got bit by Zeus – something that didn’t happen (on-screen) in the movie proper. Just how many timelines have we been watching this whole time?
He never actually got bit by Zeus, was the epilogue a different timeline? pic.twitter.com/y4wlpte88LMay 22, 2021
For his part, Zack Snyder has also teased that the time loop theory was correct. In an interview on The Film Junkee’s (opens in new tab) Vodka Stream (H/T Screen Rant (opens in new tab)), the director said: “I will also say that… there's a chance – and I'm not saying this is 100% true, and in some ways it's not – but the group at the table, I mean, it's pretty subtle, but that's them also at the table as well as... they get farther every time. Is this the time they made it all the way to the money?”
TL;DR? Army of the Dead charts the (likely) fourth time in a neverending time loop designed to make sure the team learn from their mistakes and Tanaka gets his money. There might even be alternate timelines at play here, judging by Dieter's perfect heist that never was.
Depending on how deep you want to go, we might even be watching multiple timelines simultaneously. And this is just scratching the surface. There are likely to be many, many more time loop twists tucked away in the movie, so we can keep watching on and on. Forever and ever.
For more from Army of the Dead – and similarly likely to scramble your brain – here is a look at where the aliens are in Army of the Dead. Then, there’s also our guide on why Army of the Dead is so blurry – and whether we’re getting an Army of the Dead 2.