Everything Wrong with Army of the Dead
Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead leads a crew of misfits on a chaotic heist in the heart of a zombie-ridden Las Vegas. The crew are tasked to steal 20 Million from a casino vault before the US government launch a nuclear attack against the undead. But first, they must try and get past a zombie overlord, his queen, and their horde of the undead.
The films bold crew of zombie slayers includes Scott Ward (Dave Bautista), his old friends Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick) Maria (Ana de la Reguera), social media star Mikey Guzman (Raúl Castillo), Chambers (Samantha Win), helicopter pilot Marianne Peters (Tig Notaro) and safe-breaker Ludwig Dieter (Matthias Schweighöfer). Joining them are suspicious company man Martin (Garret Dillahunt), local smuggler Lilly (Nora Arnezeder), and Scott’s daughter Kate (Ella Purnell).
The film opens with a montage that showcases the fall of Las Vegas to a bunch of blood thirsty “Alpha” zombies, led by king zombie Zeus, but then proceeds to spend the rest of its time being extraordinarily generic. However, it’s bland flavor is the least of the films problems, as Army of the Dead has some plot holes that are especially hard to ignore. Grab your linen and start your singing… here is Everything Things wrong with Army of the Dead.
Highly Classified Object – No Protection
Seemingly taking it’s queues from Return of the Living Dead, the film starts with a highly classified object being transported from Area 51 across the Nevada dessert, with a bare bones security detail in tow. When considering the true nature of the object being transported, you would have thought that more security would have been put in place, but instead of the heavily armed forces you would expect, the crew consist of a just a few vehicles, which are thrown into disarray when a car accidentally crashes into the convoy. The explosion cracks open the transported container, but the soldiers seemingly have no idea what is inside, nor do they quickly respond to their superiors commands, leading to the Alpha zombie escaping. The films starts with an ominous view of Zeus looking down upon Vegas.
For eagle eyed viewers, you may have spotted that not all the zombies are the same. Some of the zombies can be seen exploding black oil and sparks as they are shot, revealing cyborg like features underneath. This is not an Easter egg, but an intentional sub-plot that Snyder placed in the movie. He has revealed that the robot zombies were a way of maintaining a weird ambiguity to their zombie origins. When we first meet Zeus, he is being transported from Area 51, a facility synonymous with UFOs and alien activity. The idea is expand our idea of what zombies are. Here in Army of the Dead, it’s possible that Zeus and his army are alien in nature. But without any real story, or explanation for these cyborg creations, it leaves audiences wondering what the hell they have just seen?
The Company Man Joins the Team
In every heist story there is always a person who betrays the crew, but Zack Snyder falls into this writing troupe in the worst way possible. Martin, Tanaka’s head of security, is so obviously up to no good right from the start. He’s only there to secretively retrieve an Alpha Zombie head, and yet he somehow manages to look shifty enough for suspicions to be grown very earlier in the film. His plan is paper thin and his actions are stupid enough to lead to him to a bitter end at the jaws of a zombie Tiger.
We have seen this scenario so many times before, with the most prominent example being in Aliens, where company man Burke (Paul Reiser) tags along with the military as an observer, but turns out to have his own evil agenda. If cinema has taught us anything, it’s never to trust the company man.
No One Helps Chambers
Chambers is quick to show a nefarious agenda when he double-crosses Martin in the first act of Army of the Dead. The team is forced to enter a series of zombie filled corridors. However Martin leads Chambers down the wrong path, leaving her to face the rotting undead alone. Despite the odds, Martin single-handedly fights her way through a mass horde of zombies, smashing through a window to reach Guzman and the rest of the crew. However, despite the small number of deadheads that she now faces, the crew do absolutely nothing to help their comrade. This hand picked team of highly-trained zombie-slayers don’t even raise their guns. Instead, they watch on for a good thirty seconds whilst Chambers struggles to keep the zombies at bay.
Even Guzman, the crack shot zombie slayer, just stares slack jawed, as Chambers is overcome by the undead. He eventually does pull out his weapon, only to fire a single shot. With the team mere feet away, this situation should have been easily escapable. Is this a case of lazy writing, or lazy team mates? To make matter worse, this entire situation is deemed completely pointless later in the film.
A Different Path
The crew entered into the deadly hall of zombies to avoid pissing off the Alpha’s. However, later in the film, Lilly and Martin are seen returning to where they first spotted the Queen Alpha, meaning that there was an entirely other way in and out of the casino that did not require them to enter the Zombie hallway. Chambers death should have been easily avoidable.
Everyone is a Crack Shot (Accept when their not)
The film makes a big point of hiring the gun guy, only for his skills to become completely mute, when everyone is a crack shot, even when running across casino tables and widely shooting behind themselves. In fact, social media star Mikey Guzman is pretty much sidelined through the entire film, with his skills widely underused throughout. The only opportunity Guzman is given to shine, is when he fails to save Chambers, and in this instance he only fires one shot in order to put her out of her misery.
The Uncrackable Vault
At the point when the team finally get to the vault, it’s hard to understand exactly which direction the film is heading in. Is it a Oceans 11 styled vault heist, an Indian Jones movie, or something from a Looney Tunes cartoon. The vault has a series of highly over the top traps set to protect the content of the vault, including dart traps and crushing walls. The crew decide to set loose zombies to set the traps off. And wouldn’t you know it, zombie seem to prefer heist capers better than human flesh, as they casually lumber forward into the traps, completely ignoring the humans behind them. If you have suspended your disbelief enough on the traps, the Uncrackable Vault will have you screaming at the screen.
A massive deal is made out of this Uncrackable Vault, with German safecracker Dieter being one of the few people capable of cracking it open. But rather than expensive drills, huge explosives and complicated computers systems, Dieter cracks it by putting his ear to the door. This vault was clearly fitted by ACME engineers.
Transporting the Money
Many heist films gloss over certain aspects of the job, such as the process of bagging up and transporting the money to their get away vehicles. Army of the Dead completely ignores this logistical stage, because ultimately it doesn’t matter.
Once into the vault, the Team is treated to the wonderful sight of their millions, neatly stacked in thigh high piles. But for anyone paying attention, it becomes clear that they have A) Not enough bags to carry all the cash B) Not enough space on the helicopter for the cash and all the crew, and C) not enough time to bag and transport all the cash up to the roof.
According to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, all U.S. bills weigh the same: one gram. About 454 grams make a pound, which means that a ton of dollar bills would be worth $908,000. They have $20 Million to shift, which means moving they have to shift 22 tons of cash. Each duffle bag can carry a recommended 33lb limit, which means each ton requires 60 bags. In total they need to shift 1320 duffle bags of cash.
As for the helicopter, it can only carry around 19 tons of weight with a five man crew, but the biggest issue here is space. There is just no logistical way in which they could fit all the money in one journey.
Timey Wimey and Big Bombs
The film makes a point of showing that other teams had previously undertaken the same task, but is very light on any further scrutiny. The only explanation given is a tongue in cheek stab at the films terrible issue with time, as it’s suggested that the dead bodies of the other crew could be themselves from a different time loop. For a film that included Robot Zombies, it’s entirely possible that this sci-fi element could be true.
However, the films major time issue is not the time travelling sub-plot, but the actually time limit given to them by the scheduled nuclear bomb heading their way. Like any terribly written film, the time frame for the nuke attack is inexplicable rushed forward, as the government orders the nuclear strike to an hour, rather than the 24 hours the team had originally planned for. Despite this fact, the Team remain strangely unphased by the increasingly short amount of time given to them. In fact, there literally no sense of urgency at all.
Kates Weird Determination
The characters of Army of the Dead are some of the most undeveloped in a movie of this scope. In fact, we get more character development of a character that dies in the films opening credit sequence, than we do with any of the cast. The film instead falls on clichéd character tropes to help the audience understand their motivations.
Guzman’s the gun guy, Lilly’s the smuggler, Peters the Pilot and Dieter is the Safe Cracker, everyone else fails to really get much of role within the group, falling back on internal relationships to explain their presence.
The weirdest character is Scott’s daughter Kate. The WHO volunteer somehow gets a major bee in her bonnet about the location of her friend who was last seen wandering into the quarantined city. Vegas is a pretty big place, and lets be honest, it would be an almost impossible task in tracking the missing friend in the time frame given. And yet, Kate seems sure that the Olympus hotels is exactly where her friend is. It just so happens she is. Now there’s a high risk gamble in Vegas that actually paid out.
Love is in the Thin Air
Maria Cruz is an extraordinarily vague character that is introduced as an old friend of Ward. The film does very little to expand her beyond showing that she’s a mechanic, and even with this role within the group, she has very little to do. To spice Cruz up, the films third act throws in a dry squib of a revelation. Cruz confesses her love for Ward, claiming she only came on the mission to be with him. The biggest issue with this is that they could have easily met up at any point, and they didn’t need the heist to bring them close together. The whole conversation comes out of the blue, and because of the paper thin character development, it’s a little jarring and ultimately rendered pointless because she dies minutes after confessing her love. And shes quickly forgotten about by all. Ward neither reacts nor mentions Cruz again.
When the team first get together, they are shown a model building of the casino, including a model helicopter, which pilot Peters is seen closely inspecting. However, the helicopter she finds on the roof of the casino looks to be a run down hunk of junk. It seems that at no point did anyone ask about more details on their escape vessel. Despite trying to repair, we witness flames and smoke billowing from the engine at one point. In any real world situation, this would certainly need lengthy repair work, if not a new engine. However, Peters manages to fix it like the A Team, with literally nothing but a few tools.
Ultimately, the entire heist is terribly flawed from beginning to end. The only way in which the job makes any senses, is if Tanaka hired him knowing he would mess things up.
Ward failed to plan out their journey, with only Lilly seemingly knowing their directions, of which she explains at various stages of the heist. Ward also did no research on their escape vehicle, the transportation of the money, or logistics of their escape. Basically, he had no idea how he was getting to the casino and no idea how he was going to get out. This is further compounded by his poor decision making at the start of the heist.
Consider for a second that the operation had been carefully planned, that weight limits of all the crew had been accounted for, along with the weight of the money, fuel, and weapons. Ward makes a snap emotional decision to allow his daughter to join the heist, along with potentially two other survivors in the city. It never seems to occur to him, or any other member of the team, that they may well be putting their escape plan at risk due to the extra weight.
The Heist Was Pointless
A mid-movie reveal about Martin’s true intentions causes more head scratching than it does clarity. After trapping the rest of the crew in the casino basement, Martin tells Lilly that his boss, Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada) was never interested in getting the money out at all. Tanaka’s true goal is to retrieve the head of an alpha zombie. Martin says that the government and black market buyers will pay ten times more for an intact zombie head and brain than for the contents of the vault.
This statement makes the entire heist completely pointless, as the very first thing the group sees, when the entered the quarantined city, is the Queen Alpha. If the team had been hired to capture the Alpha’s head, rather than go on a heist, then they could have been in and out within minutes.
Martin even takes the queen down with only Lilly’s help, earlier on in the film, meaning that the larger group were completely unrequired. So, If money was essential to encourage folks into the city, they had needed only to pay Lily, she probably would have been dead cheap too.
To further compound this fact, the only reason Martin does not get away with his prize, is because he returns to the faux heist.
Radiation… what Radiation?
Some films hope that you’ll suspended your disbelief long enough to enjoy the film for it’s merits. Army of the Dead hopes that your as about as brain dead as the zombies in the film, in order to accept the ending as a good or dramatic.
After being pushed into the vault by Dieter to save his life, Vanderohe somehow manages to escape the “The Uncrackable Vault” after Vegas is nuked into oblivion. He then causally walks out of the ruin city.
First off, no matter how thick the walls of the vault was, Vanderohe would have been cooked alive as their heated walls created an oven-like condition inside. And even if he did survive the initial explosion, he would be running out of air pretty quickly.
One of the endings biggest problems is that it completely ignores that actually implications of nuke. For several days after an explosion, the vast aera surrounding ground zero would be engulfed by a gigantic firestorm, which would burn for several hours, leaving the site in a fiery pit for days, even weeks later. Temperatures in the fire zone would likely average 400 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit (200 to 260 Celsius). Even after the fires eventually burned out, the street pavement would be so hot that even tracked vehicles could not pass over it for days. Vanderohe walks out of the city after only an hour or so.
There’s also the small issue of fallout. Nuclear fallout is the residual radioactive material propelled into the upper atmosphere following a nuclear blast, so called because it “falls out” of the sky. Vanderohe would have been exposed to a super-lethal dose of radiation, that would have not only caused serious burns but would have made him extraordinarily sick very quickly.
Grab a Bite!
After surviving a battle against zombies and Alpha zombies, a nuclear bomb and escaping from the decimated city, Vanderohe boards a plane. It’s here that he discovers that he has been bitten. Now, every good zombie film has at least one incident where a good guy gets bitten. They usually hide the wound for a more dramatic reveal near the end. Snyder even used this trope for the ending to his remake of Dawn of the Dead. However, in Army, Vanderohe is not even aware that he has been bitten. It doesn’t matter how tough you are, a bite like that is going to hurt. To make ammeters worse, the film gave us a false narrative earlier, where we saw Zeus “almost” biting into Vanderohe’s arm, but was pulled away at the last minute. This type of bait and switch is a cheap gimmick that just doesn’t sit well with audiences.
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“Hello Horror Fans – Once bitten, twice shy.I love Army of the Dead, but some of these plot holes left me a little cold. You could accuse the film makers of being a little brain-dead! Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Until next time…