By Alex McPherson

Zack Snyder’s “Army of the Dead” is a hugely enjoyable jaunt into undead splatterville.

After a military convoy transporting cargo from Area 51 collides with a distracted driver, a bloodthirsty brain-muncher is unleashed upon the population of Las Vegas. All hell breaks loose — visualized in an over-the-top montage involving strippers, Elvis impersonators and others being overpowered in slow motion while “Viva Las Vegas” plays on the soundtrack. Oh, there’s also a zombie tiger and two smarter “alpha” zombies leading a, well, army of the dead. 

The U.S. military tries to rescue as many survivors as possible, assisted by mercenaries Scott Ward (Dave Bautista), Maria Cruz (Ana de la Reguera), and Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick), a lover of buzzsaws and existential ponderings. They eventually contain the zombies within the city’s borders. The government establishes a ramshackle refugee camp immediately outside, and the President announces a plan to deploy a tactical nuke to eliminate the infected once and for all. 

Scott, reeling from a decision that fractured his relationship with his daughter, Kate (Ella Purnell), is relegated to flipping burgers at a bar outside Vegas, despite having received the Medal of Freedom for saving the Secretary of Defense. Soon enough, a sketchy businessman named Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada) offers Scott an assignment to venture back inside Vegas to retrieve the contents of his casino’s safe, with the potential to get rich. Scott then recruits Maria, Vanderohe, a socially awkward safecracker named Dieter (Matthias Schweighöfer), a viral zombie-killing sensation named Mikey Guzman (Raúl Castillo), and a sardonic helicopter pilot named Marianne Peters (Tig Notaro, digitally replacing Chris D’Elia).

They are joined by Guzman’s pal, Chambers (Samantha Win), Bly’s crony, Martin (Garret Dillahunt), and “The Coyote,” (Nora Arnezeder), a badass individual who knows how to navigate the zombified horde. To complicate matters, Kate insists on rescuing her friend Geeta (Huma Qureshi), who entered Vegas to find funds to buy her escape from the refugee camp. Last and certainly least, an abusive security guard named Burt Cummings (Theo Rossi) tags along. Over-the-top fun ensues as the group attempts to grab the cash before they’re disemboweled or blown to smithereens.

Tig Notaro

Loud, unrestrained, and packed with cliches, “Army of the Dead” is perfectly satisfying as a summer action film, albeit one that shouldn’t be analyzed too closely. Indeed, for the most part, Snyder’s film embraces its goofiness — going all in on the gore and bombastic set pieces that any reasonable viewer should expect, while delivering the occasionally effective character moment and feeling about an hour too long.

Sure, “Army of the Dead” might not be doing anything particularly “new” for the genre, but the few additions Snyder adds are welcome, especially the aforementioned zombie hierarchy and intimidating feline. There’s little to criticize in the outrageously gory action sequences with on-the-nose musical accompaniments. During these moments, Snyder’s indulgent style absolutely shines, creating a symphony of carnage that’s glorious to behold.

The quieter scenes are less successful, but there’s still a few surprises to be found. “Army of the Dead” takes a while to get going, mostly due to the excess of characters of varying quality. Besides Scott, they’re each given barebones backstories that render them more as cartoonish caricatures than real people, and maybe that’s acceptable in this instance. I certainly wouldn’t want the film to be any longer — it’s two-and-a-half hours, for god’s sake — but having fewer characters could have strengthened the film’s pacing and given us more time to grow attached before they’re fighting for their lives. 

The film’s screenplay does elevate their charm, though, especially regarding the unlikely bond between Vanderohe and Dieter. Hardwick and Schweighöfer have excellent comedic chemistry, creating several amusing moments.  There’s plenty of cringeworthy lines scattered throughout, but the script has enough personality for me to care about (most) of the characters by the intense finale, overlooking some abrupt tonal shifts.

Only Scott is given much depth, but Bautista’s performance carries the film’s heart, lending the proceedings a human edge amid the bloodshed. Although I wish he was given more screen time and his storyline took more risks, there’s enough thematic meat to chew on. Bautista proves that he can deliver emotional lines with skill, as well as demolish ghoulish baddies with gusto.

All things considered, “Army of the Dead” is a messy, but nevertheless thrilling blockbuster. My criticisms don’t detract much from how entertained I was, and as a balm for our depressing times, it’s a meal worth feasting on.

“Army of the Dead” is a 2021 horror-action movie directed by Zack Snyder and starring Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, . Rated R for strong bloody violence, gore and language throughout, some sexual content and brief nudity/graphic nudity, the film’s run time is 2 hours and 28 minutes. The movie is currently available in theaters and streaming on Netflix. Alex’s Rating: B 

By Alex McPherson

“Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is an entertaining, four-hour superhero epic that greatly improves on Joss Whedon’s 2017 version. After leaving the first production due to a family tragedy, director Snyder is finally able to give fans what they’ve been craving. 

Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and another familiar face team up to take down a world-ending threat. This time, a horned monstrosity named Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) seeks to eliminate humanity from Planet Earth via three powerful “Mother Boxes” and rebuild it under the leadership of Darkseid (Ray Porter), who wants to control the galaxy. Feeling partly responsible for the death of Superman (Henry Cavill) in “Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” Batman becomes a reluctant leader as he and Wonder Woman bring the squad together. Heroes both new and old undergo their own arcs, to varying degrees — involving the topics of grief, faith, hope, and unity in times of crisis.

Aiming to please those who willed it into existence, “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is difficult to recommend to viewers who aren’t already fans of the DC Cinematic Universe. The film contains moments of emotional resonance and visual spectacle, but proves grueling by the final hour — reverting to predictable plotting and repetitive, CGI-reliant action sequences.

At least the central characters are given more opportunities to shine. From its opening frames, “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” establishes itself as a slower, mournful affair, with a 4:3 aspect ratio, dour chapter titles, muted color palette, and a clearer sense of organization. Snyder has crafted an unarguably more coherent storyline than before, maintaining a grittier tone than the original cut and giving scenes more time to breathe. Even though the storytelling itself is clunky, largely thanks to hit-or-miss dialogue and frequent exposition dumps, I appreciate Snyder’s ambition. 

The added depth to Cyborg (a.k.a Victor Stone) is particularly noteworthy. After Victor and his mother are killed in a car crash, his father, Silas Stone (Joe Morton) uses a Mother Box to resurrect Victor in a robotic body. Thanks to his new abilities, Victor becomes an all-powerful presence, able to tap into the world’s technological web with ease, and representing the League’s key to vanquishing Steppenwolf. Despite his powers, Cyborg is gripped with resentment towards his father and deeply uncertain of his own future. Fisher’s acting is endearing and empathetic, the most convincing in the entire film. His character  — practically deserving of its own standalone installment — remains the heart and soul of the whole endeavour. 

The Flash (a.k.a. Barry Allen) is also further fleshed out, but his journey lacks the nuance and complexity of Cyborg’s. He is much more confident in his speedy capabilities and doesn’t spout as many cringey quips as in the 2017 iteration. Batman, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman, on the other hand, aren’t given much new material to work with under Snyder’s guidance, but we’re given more context for their actions. This helps create a stronger sense of flow from scene to scene than before, and all the actors give decent performances.

In terms of antagonists, Steppenwolf’s goals are more clearly outlined. Exiled from his demonic homeworld, he’s trying to prove himself to his master, Darkseid. Even though we understand where he’s coming from, Steppenwolf is still difficult to empathize with. Revealing more about his history doesn’t automatically fix his blandness or render him memorable. He’s big, powerful, odd-looking, and ready to slice and dice his way to victory.

Speaking of violence, “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is rated R, allowing Snyder to indulge in bloody carnage that feels far more visceral than other cinematic comic book offerings. As expected, however, Snyder deploys an over-abundance of slow motion to present every shot as a work of art to be gawked at. Yes, there’s instances of beauty in his eye-popping, effects-heavy compositions, but they lose their thrill as the hours pile up.

Combined with an unnecessary epilogue that’s purely fan service, “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” doesn’t quite justify its existence for casual moviegoers. Nevertheless, I wholeheartedly support Snyder’s efforts to realize his vision. That being said, four hours is a huge time commitment, especially when viewed in a single sitting, and his film doesn’t differentiate itself enough to truly stand out.

A self-serious, over-indulgent, yet admirable effort, “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” isn’t the masterpiece that some have touted it as, but it proves sporadically enjoyable. I just needed a long nap afterwards.

“Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is a 2021 release from Warner Brothers that is exclusively showing on HBOMax, as of March 18. It stars Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Henry Cavill, Ray Fisher and Ezra Miller as the six superheroes in the DC Justice League. is Rated R for violence and some language. It has a run time of 242 minutes. Alex’s Grade: B –