Zack Snyder is absolutely killing it right now: between Army of the Dead and the release of Justice League’s Snyder Cut, the filmmaker is now more relevant than he has ever been. When news broke about Snyder directing a Netflix film called Army of the Dead, reactions were mixed; mainly because Snyder’s reputation as a superhero film director now outweighs his roots in horror.
Reactions to Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead have been somewhat mixed, but enough people enjoyed the film for it to get a whole cinematic universe that could be immensely profitable for Netflix.
As insane as Army of the Dead was, every piece of news surrounding the future of the franchise sounds even more surreal. We might be getting one of the most unique cinematic universes out there, so let’s take a look at what we know so far about one of Netflix’s most ambitious projects yet.
The film’s synopsis:
Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead takes place following a zombie outbreak that has left Las Vegas in ruins and walled off from the rest of the world. When Scott Ward (Dave Bautista), a displaced Vegas local, a former war hero who’s now flipping burgers on the outskirts of the town he now calls home, is approached by casino boss Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada), it’s with the ultimate proposition: Break into the zombie-infested quarantined zone to retrieve $200 million sitting in a vault beneath the casino before the city is nuked by the government in 32 hours.
Money. Zombies. Casinos. Nuclear Explosions. Something you won’t see at any South African online casino.
Every Genre Under the Sun
One of the most unique aspects of Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead is how the film plays with its genres. One minute you’re watching a straight-up comedy heist flick, and the next you’re watching a pure zombie horror film. This versatility keeps the film entertaining throughout, sure, but it also gives the franchise an extra layer of material to create spin-offs.
The most common negative criticism the movie gets has to do with its bloated runtime of a little over two hours. This, however, could easily be used to the franchise’s advantage when they begin producing the upcoming shows based on the Army of the Dead universe. Luckily for the fans, we already have info on what the first upcoming sequel is going to be.
Of Thieves and Zombies
Since September of 2020, we’ve known that there would be a sequel to Army of the Dead. Even more interesting is the fact that it won’t be a sequel, but a prequel, set six years before the events of the original movie.
Army of Thieves stars Matthias Schweighöfer reprising his role as Ludwig Dieter. Schweighöfer is also set to direct the film, with Zack Snyder working as a producer. Fans of the original movie will surely notice that considering the movie takes place six years before Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead, the zombie outbreak would be in its infancy.
That’s what’s so interesting about this cinematic universe: it’s always changing. Army of Thieves is, at its core, a heist film; the original draft for the film didn’t include zombies at all, but Snyder has rectified that since then. Now, we’ll be getting an origin story of sorts that explores Dieter’s past and how he learned to crack every type of safe.
Described as “The Italian Job with zombies,” Army of Thieves might be a more traditional action film than Army of the Dead was. Part of the reason why the original film included so many outlandish zombie tropes and gory violence has to do with the film’s origins, an idea that dates back to Snyder’s first feature film.
Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Army of the Dead
As we mentioned before, Zack Snyder wasn’t always related to the Man of Steel and the rest of the Justice League. In 2004, the then novice filmmaker worked together with James Gunn in a reimagined version of Dawn of the Dead.
Hoping to bring the excitement of zombie horror films to a new generation, Snyder deviated just a bit from the original film’s plot, adding more gruesome gore than the original ever could have dreamed of.
The film was somewhat divisive between critics, especially with those who already loved the original Dawn of the Dead directed by George A. Romero, who had also voiced his dislike for Snyder’s version. According to the master of all things zombie, Snyder’s take on the zombie apocalypse “felt too much like a video game,” which caused the horror to wither away.
Despite its initially lukewarm reception, support for 2004’s Dawn of the Dead only got stronger with time; some critics even consider the film as Snyder’s masterpiece. This positive media reception might be the reason why Snyder began planning a sequel to his Dawn of the Dead. However, getting a proper cinematic universe also means exploring the origins of said universe, which is why Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead is more of a spiritual successor to Dawn of the Dead than a proper sequel.
Army of the Dead had been in development at least since 2007 when Warner Bros. first announced that they were going to release a new zombie flick inspired by an original idea by Zack Snyder. Many fans speculated that the film was going to be another reimagining of one of Romero’s later works – a rumour that Snyder later denied.
Finally, after 12 years in development hell, the movie’s rights were picked up by Netflix in 2019. To keep the film as a tribute to the works of Romero, and to further establish its status as a spiritual successor to his first feature film, Zack Snyder chose the title Army of the Dead. And the rest, as they say, is history.
While Army of Thieves sounds like a natural evolution for the zombie mashup that is Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead, the future of the franchise is even more fascinating than what might initially seem.
For one, the announced prequel isn’t the only project in the Army of the Dead series being worked on right now. A proper sequel is also in the early stages of development, with Zack Snyder set to reprise his directorial role. As if that wasn’t enough, we might also be getting a Netflix anime series very soon.
Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas is an anime prequel set in the early days of the zombie apocalypse. Unlike Army of Thieves, however, this show will centre around the cast of the original film, expanding upon their stories before the events of the film.
This might be Netflix’s biggest animated project to date, as it features the voice talents of most of the actors we saw in Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead, including Dave Bautista and Ana de la Reguera. Some new voices joining the cast include Christian Slater, Ross Butler, Nolan North, and Vanessa Hudgens.
With two prequels and a sequel on the horizon, it’s clear that Snyder is going all out on his new cinematic universe, presenting a full scope of stories and locations that are perhaps more ambitious than even The Walking Dead has been. Let’s just hope that the series retains its characteristic energy and eclectic genre mashup going forward.
As it is now, it’s clear that Zack Snyder and Netflix’s Army of the Dead shows us how comfortable the filmmaker feels working in horror, and might even give some studios ideas about which projects to offer to the Man of Steel director. Who knows? Maybe we’ll get to see a Batman vs. Solomon Grundy film directed by Snyder in the future.