Writing Movie “WRONGS”
By Jim West
Army of the Dead
Directed by Zack Snyder
Written by Zack Snyder, Shay Hatten, and Joby Harold
Zack Snyder is often a hit or miss director. His hits include 300 and Man of Steel…his misses being Watchmen and Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice. This zombie heist action film has some neat scenes, but then falls flat on the ‘everyone eventually dies’ theme. I just feel this film tried to do too much with the emotional aspects of the film and that is where it falls flat for me.
Here comes the spoilers.
A newly married couple is driving down the highway and crashes into a military convey transporting highly classified cargo. After radioing in to headquarters about the crash and the cargo is compromised, the operator on the radio tells them to evacuate immediately. Of course they do not and the cargo turns out to be a soldier that has turned into a super zombie. This zombie attacks and kills everyone, and as they rise up as super zombies they see the lights of Las Vegas in the distance and descend upon Vegas. The films opening montage is brilliant. Showing the downfall of Las Vegas and the military response to quarantining the city off is a great way to get us up to speed with the sequence of events that drives the mission of the film.
We get glimpses of a team of soldiers rescuing people as the final container is dropped in to seal off Las Vegas. Then we are shown Scott Ward (Dave Baustista) working at a diner. He is approached by the owner of one of the casinos who wants to recruit him to go into the quarantined zone and retrieve from a vault 200 million dollars. Ward can use the money and he recruits most of his former team which consists of a mechanic/soldier Maria, a soldier Vanderohe, and their wisecracking Helicopter pilot named Marianne played to hilarious effect by Tig Notaro. Ward then brings on a few new people as well. Raul a sharpshooter, Ludwig a German safe-cracker, and a smuggler named Lily who knows how to get them inside and around the streets inside. Now the film does focus a bit on the amounts of money each person is offered for their part of the job. This should have been used again in the film since it seemed so important to mention in the team setup. I feel this was a wasted opportunity to play this information for comedic effect or team trust issues once the money was in hands.
The team interactions are good, and everyone acknowledges not everyone will survive this mission. Ward’s daughter is a volunteer in the quarantine camp and due to a mother entering into the quarantine zone for money and not coming back, she is now compelled to go in and search for her and forces her father to take her with him. This plot thread gets a bit cheesy, but I get it. It proves to be somewhat a matter of perspective and showcases how we sometimes should just talk about things instead of making assumptions. During the film the father and daughter do reconcile and it is bittersweet, but didn’t pack the emotional punch it should have. Sometimes a film tries too hard to be a lot of different things and cram in so much that things get lost in the action. The sequence of a zombie baby is largely brushed aside. The questionable actions of Lily who doesn’t seem motivated by money helping a shady character steal something which ends up being the real reason they went into the quarantine zone seems just ‘off’. No motivation to me there. Again trying to cram so much into the film may have let some things on the cutting room floor.
There are some neat and tense sequences. The room of hibernating zombies is perhaps the best scene. The rest is typical action zombie shoot em ups that typically ends in some type pf explosion to save the day. The team races against a accelerated clock of a nuclear strike and with most of the team dying in one spectacular fashion after another we get down to a crash landed helicopter and the daughter has to take out her father when he turns into a zombie. Awwww…teardrop. Vegas is nuked and everything seems to be bow tied up. We then see one survivor who got shut in a casino vault emerge and book a private jet to Mexico. Then we get the reveal that he has been bitten and obviously the zombie spread will continue in sequels to be sure.
The issues with this film is that other than taking out the father daughter elements, this film is basically a zombie action shoot ’em up and should stay in that lane. Not enough time and setup was given to the estrangement of the father daughter to have a emotional payoff in the end. It is basic and cute at best as it is. I would’ve liked to have seen more camaraderie amongst the team of mercenaries. Show they anguish as they lose team member after team member. Plus have them questioning their payouts from the job would have again made for some added humor.
Thanks for reading Writing Movie ‘WRONGS’.