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First reactions to Army of the Dead hail 'ridiculously fun' adventure, world-building of Snyder's zombie comeback

By Matthew Jackson

For some fans, Zack Snyder's Justice League was, for all its ambition and bombast, not the most-anticipated Zack Snyder project of 2021. No, for a lot of viewers, that honor was always going to go the director's long-awaited return to the zombie genre, Army of the Dead. Now the first critics to see the film have weighed in, and it sounds like we're in for a pretty wild and pretty bloody trip to Vegas.

More than a decade in the making, Army of the Dead marks Snyder's return to the subgenre that helped put him on the map with Dawn of the Dead, and this time he's working on a grander scale and with an even bigger ensemble cast. The film's trailer have hyped fans for everything from explosive zombie action to a gang of thieves that includes everyone from Dave Bautista to Tig Notaro, and if the marketing is any indication fans are in for a summer movie gorefest with lots of popcorn fun. So far, in social media reactions ahead of reviews dropping later this week, critics so far mostly agree.

Check out some of the early praise for the film below.

"Army of the Dead’s opening credits sequence is delicious, pure camp. While the rest of the film doesn’t sustain that tone (& meanders), there are lots of wild, deftly executed concepts & scenes centered on the heist. Even more audacious is there’s an unexpected infusion of heart," Variety's Courtney Howard wrote.

"Army of the Dead was VERY much my kind of thing," Collider's Perri Nemiroff said. "As hoped, the setting + Zack Snyder's eye = a downright stunning display of zombie mayhem and carnage."

"The movie is a BLAST. It takes itself seriously and commits to that, so after a few minutes, I was totally in," Brandon Davis of ComicBook said. "It's a big-budget, creative, super fun, thrilling, violent zombie film. That's what you want, that's what you get."

"Army of The Dead is a violent, gory, and bloody blast. Zack Snyder’s latest is a ridiculously fun and over the top genre bending zombie film," We Live Entertainment's Scott Menzel said. "While the entire cast is great, Matthias Schweighöfer steals every scene. Oh, and the opening credits are absolutely epic."

"I saw Army of the Dead and I’m all-in on this world," Insider's Kirsten Acuna said. "Pretty sure Zack Snyder just beat WB to the punch and made his own Suicide Squad movie, but with zombies. How about that."

But of course, not everyone was completely sold on the film, with some critics questioning the meandering pacing and even Snyder's ability to play with the new concepts at work in his zombie world to their fullest potential.

"I found myself wanting more from Army of the Dead overall," Observer's Brandon Katz said. "It's well cast and often funny. But despite blending the heist/zombie genres, there's not much newness added to either. One or two fresh setpieces amid familiar blood n gore, but outside of that, you've seen it more or less."

UPDATE: On the heels of social media reactions Monday, the first reviews from the film landed Tuesday, and echoed a lot of the same sentiments. This is a film rooted in grand-scale, relentless zombie flick fun, even as some critics lamented its overlong runtime and lack of real zombie inventiveness.

"It’s like a war-torn theme park, the ideal setting for chaos, killing and narrow escapes. The energy and inventiveness on display at all levels here — not to mention the sly humor — make Army of the Dead an ass-kicking epic franchise debut," David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter wrote.

If you go to see just one movie this year, Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead might be the ticket — not because it’s the best movie you’ll see in 2021 (or maybe even this week), but because it’s a stylishly grandiose, muscular but conventional popcorn pageant that’s got something for just about everyone," Owen Gleiberman of Variety wrote.

"Army of the Dead feels like a culmination of Snyder's career to this point, much more so than his recently-released cut of Justice League. With the creative freedom afforded by Netflix, Snyder returns to the genre that he's clearly best at with an exciting original story, bringing with him all of the lessons and techniques he learned from his stint with DC and a cast that feels down for just about anything. The film is a triumph for a director whose career has been mired by polarizing opinions, and it's easily the most exciting zombie film in years," Charlie Ridgely of wrote. 

"This is a long movie, but it doesn’t feel long. It moves, Snyder bounding with enthusiasm and little shame through clichés of his mashed-up video-store fare, like the moment where he walks us through—with a snappy illustrative flood of imagery—how the heist is supposed to unfold, which is to say how it won’t. Army’s general adherence to convention makes its deviations stand out. It’s a zombie movie with such enjoyable wrinkles in lore as a resurrected representative of the late Siegfried & Roy’s act, and a “hibernation stage” that turns crossing an infested lobby into a round of the quiet game with Bellagio-high stakes," A.A. Dowd of The A.V. Club wrote. 

"It’s all very exhausting, and at 148 minutes, Army of the Dead more than overstays its welcome. It also tries to shoehorn in a few clumsy emotional moments at the last minute, and throws in a few twists and turns as well, but none of this works – and I doubt anyone is very interested in that sort of thing anyway. You don’t come into this sort of movie looking for character development. You just want to see some jacked people firing big, loud guns. And you’ll get that, and then some. There’s a certain fun to be had in Army of the Dead, but it’s the mindless, ugly fun that you wake up the next day regretting. Come to think of it, it’s kind of like a trip to Las Vegas," Chris Evangelista of SlashFilm wrote.

"Discerning viewers may have more than a few questions as the movie heads toward a cliffhanger that promises the franchise around the corner, but the bulk of Army of the Dead is self-explanatory. It’s a blockbuster that funnels the appeal of big-budget action and horror with an almost sacred reverence for the material. That’s absurd, but Snyder’s a true believer in go-for-broke escapism and at its best, the mayhem in Army of the Dead is an infectious zombie bite of its own," Eric Kohn of IndieWire wrote.

Viewers everywhere will be able to find out for themselves soon enough, as Army of the Dead rampages into a limited theatrical run this week, then hits Netflix May 21.