Described as a “zombie heist film”, Army of the Dead is an alternate take on the standard zombie movie.
It’s one that producers are hoping will perform well on streaming service Netflix with plans in place to turn it into a full blown franchise, with a prequel film and an anime TV show already announced.
Here is everything you need to know about it.
What is Army of the Dead about?
Army of the Dead is described as a “zombie heist film”, and tells the story of a group of mercenaries who venture into a quarantine zone to pull off the greatest heist ever attempted following a zombie outbreak in Las Vegas.
The film has been lingering in something of a “development hell”, having first been announced way back in March 2007.
Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. – best known for his 2011 prequel to The Thing, also confusingly called The Thing – was signed on to direct, but the project really never came to fruition.
It wasn’t until January 2019 that Netflix acquired the distribution rights from Warner Bros.
Zack Snyder was then drafted in behind the camera, and shooting began in July 2019 in Los Angeles, New Mexico and New Jersey, with production wrapped by March 2021.
It’s the second zombie film directed by Snyder following his 2004 directorial debut, Dawn of the Dead, and the filmmaker also serves as co-screenwriter with John Wick: Chapter 3 writer, Shay Hatten.
Who stars in it?
Army of the Dead features an ensemble cast.
Front and centre is former WWE wrestler and Guardians of the Galaxy star Dave Bautista, who plays Scott Ward.
English actress Ella Purnell (Belgravia) plays Kate Ward, while Omari Hardwick (Sorry to Bother You) is Vanderohe, Mexican actress Ana de la Reguera (Narcos) plays Cruz, and German actor Matthias Schweighöfer is Ludwig Dieter.
Theo Rossi (Luke Cage) plays Burt Cummings, French actress Nora Arnezeder (Riviera) is Lily "The Coyote", Japanese actor Hiroyuki Sanada (Mortal Kombat) plays Hunter Bly, and Raúl Castillo (Atypical) is Mikey Guzman.
Originally, American stand-up comedian and actor Chris D'Elia was among the ensemble cast. But in mid-2020, he was accused of sexual harassment, grooming and solicitation of nude photos by multiple underage girls.
This led to the actor’s removal from the film, despite him having finished shooting his scenes, he has been replaced with deadpan comic and actress Tig Notaro, who re-shot her scenes opposite an acting partner on a green screen due to pandemic restrictions.
Elsewhere on the cast, Huma Qureshi is Geeta, Garret Dillahunt (Fear the Walking Dead) is Martin and Samantha Win (Zack Snyder's Justice League) is Chambers.
Is it worth watching?
Critics have already been able to spend time with the film, and the first reviews for Army of the Dead are in.
On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 75 per cent at the time of writing, with the website calling the film “an ambitious, over-the-top zombie heist mashup” which brings Zack Snyder “back to his genre roots with a suitably gory splash.”
The Times’ Kevin Maher recommends seeing it on a big screen if you can (though there’s no word on a cinema release at the moment), saying Army of the Dead “positively cries out for the communal joys of the multiplex experience”, while Time Out’s review calls it “a watered-down Aliens with slot machines.”
Others are more positive. The Independent called it “a Baroque tapestry of blood, bullets and bones - one that's never short of memorable imagery”, while Empire magazine said Army of the Dead is “a romp of a genre mash-up that lets Snyder loose with his most gleeful indulgences.”
What about the prequel?
As mentioned, a prequel film and an anime-style television series are in development to expand the ‘Army...’ franchise.
The animated TV series will be called Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas, and centres around the characters from Army of the Dead during the early phases of the zombie outbreak.
Army of the Dead cast member Matthias Schweighöfer will star in and direct the prequel movie – titled Army of Thieves – which takes place before the events of Army of the Dead and focuses on his character, Ludwig Dieter.
The film will also star British actress Nathalie Emmanuel (Game of Thrones), and comedian and actor Guz Khan (Man Like Mobeen).
When can I watch it?
Army of the Dead was released on Netflix on Friday 21 May 2021.
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