People have been on at me to watch Zack Snyder’s Justice League but it just isn’t going to happen. For a start, I couldn’t stand the theatrical version so a new four hour cut does not sound like something I want to give my time to. I know they are blaming replacement director Joss Whedon for the mess with the original (a year ago I’d have fought them on this but he has fallen hard off that pedestal so he can fight his battles without me from here on) but I’ve seen Zack Snyder’s other films and they are also really bad.
His very first movie, a remake of classic flesh-eater thriller Dawn of the Dead, was alright though so maybe it is his return to the zombie genre that convinced me to give his latest movie a go. Besides, there have been some really smart takes on this idea recently with The Girl With All the Gifts, Cargo, Train to Busan, Warm Bodies, Anna and the Apocalypse and One Cut of the Dead so just like all of the characters in this film who unquestioningly agree to be part of a mission to retrieve a huge amount of cash from a casino vault in the middle of a zombie infested Las Vegas, I was in.
Well, it turns out I was as stupid as they were because true to form, and unlike the monsters in the story, this movie is totally brain dead. It took precisely two minutes for this movie to annoy me as the unimaginably dangerous package that the ultra trained and brilliantly equipped military crew are transporting in the opening sequence, essentially fell off the back of their lorry and popped open (spoiler- zombie). It’s a really dumb start to a really dumb movie.
This is actually followed by an amusing montage as the entertainment capital of the world falls to the hordes, which includes a shot indicating that Elvis is not alive so much as he is undead, but it turns out the sequence is entirely at odds with the style and feel of the rest of the film which, despite these scenes and the bright, colourful poster, is humourless and dour. Soon enough the fun is over and we are following a band of mercenaries into a doomed battle against cliche. (Actually, it isn’t soon enough. Nothing in this a hundred and fifty minute film happens soon enough. It is an hour and fifty until the zombies even attack.)
There are occasional flashes of interest and social commentary like with the guy who has made it big by shooting himself shooting zombies on YouTube, but these get lost in the mix and mostly it is all utterly unsurprising. It is clear from the start which of the gang are going to die and almost in which order but you tell yourself this will be okay because the kills will be cool when they come (spoiler – they’re not). Worse; there are several moments where their actions make no sense whatsoever, of which I will give you a couple of examples. There is a time when one character makes an incredibly pointless sacrifice and says ‘don’t worry, I know what I’m doing’ by way of an explanation to the audience who have absolutely no clue what she is doing. Then there is the person whose death is so tragic and poignant because of the truth behind her motivations when nothing she has done has given any indication of why she is doing what she is doing other than her stopping to explain why she is doing what she is doing moments before her surprise demise.
Don’t even get me started on the one character whose abduction totally drives all of the actions of the second lead before they literally disappear from the story with no one on screen noticing. Maybe they died, maybe they didn’t, who knows, who cares? Oddly not Zack Snyder, apparently.
There is a heavy handed suggestion that there is more to all of this than meets the eye and other instalments may clarify things but taken on its own merits Army of the Dead is not scary or tense, it is not amusing and it has no new ideas or any notion of how to follow through on the tired ideas it does have. Also, Army of the Dead is clearly the name of the sequel they are setting up to follow this film because it doesn’t fit this movie at all.
Worst of all it finishes with a rendition of Zombie by The Cranberries which is so hard on the nose as to be painful and also is a horrid insult to Dolores O’Riorden and the child victims of IRA bombings that she wrote the song about. I think this more than anything is why I have taken against this movie but I’d already lost it way before this.
I’m definitely not watching that new Justice League now.
The Ripley Factor:
There are a number of women in the film, on the side of the heartless, moronic killers and the zombies, and they all kick ass with all of their clothes on so that is something.
Most notable is Tig Notoro who is the best thing in it the film even though she’s not actually in the film, at least not in the same way as everyone else. She was actually added digitally afterwards as original actor Chris D’Elia had to be removed after he was exposed as a sex offender. Do you think with this and following what happened with Kevin Spacey and the need to cut him out and do expensive reshoots on All the Money in the World, as well as the allegations about Armie Hammer and the damage this will do to Kenneth Branagh’s as yet unreleased Death on the Nile, that actors should have a clause in their contracts that allows film companies to sue them if they turn out to be predatory scumbags? I’m sure it’s being discussed.