As a giant fan of zombie cinema, I'll be the first to admit that most recent genre entries have been terrible. I'd chalk this up to how the focus has shifted away from the more thought provoking themes explored in the classics like Dawn of the Dead (1978), and instead been placed almost entirely on the gore and other superficial "jump-scare" type horror elements. That said, I'm happy to report that this streak has finally been broken, and with spectacular aplomb!
Army of the Dead is a genuinely great movie, and not just in genre terms. The film successfully threads the needle, working terrifically both as an action vehicle and horrorheist hybrid. Though perhaps best of all is the way it actually feels like the natural continuation of Romero's classic original trilogy. Between this and the enjoyable, albeit far inferior, 2004 remake of Dawn, Zack Snyder is really building a case for himself as the most compellingqualified successor to the throne of zombie filmmaking, and I'm totally here for it.
While this new film boasts many of the hallmarks of the George Romero classics, including clever political commentary, class conflict, and a diverse set of mostly no-name actors, at the same time it's also quite unlike anything I've ever seen before in the genre. The closest comparison I can think of is that it in many ways evokes James Cameron's Aliens. Both are sequels that improve upon the original (in this case I'd call 2004's Dawn the original, even if it's perhaps only connected in spirit), and forge their own paths by broadening the scope and upping the anti. Moreover, they each share many similar themes, such as utilitarian government corruption, selfishness and cowardice leading to losses, frequent double-crossing, and constantly shifting power dynamics, and in both cases these components come together to elevate already impressively well-conceived premises built around interspecies conflict and survival. Oh, then there's also the small moment in the new film's opening sequence that hints the zombies may be of alien origin haha.
Interestingly, rather than falling back on voodoo, witchcraft or a deadly virus as the explanation for the outbreak, the film instead keeps the nature of the threat more ambiguous (apart from the aforementioned first scene). This was a great choice, as it helps maintain the ominous mystery around the creatures once it's made clear that they're not just your normal run-of-the-mill zombies. This novel approach to the undead is a prime example of the film's refreshingly ambitious spin on the genre.
In line with the unexpectedly strange, but intriguing opening, I was also very impressed with the film's daring decision to make the zombies more intelligent, organized, and even hierarchical (not just mindless as usual). While obviously a gamble, I felt it was a worthwhile one, as it alters the style and pacing of the film to something more akin to a serious war flick, with higher stakes and realistic strategizing (i.e. Hostage taking, stealth, negotiation, etc.). Better still, by approaching the genre from this relatively untapped angle, and establishing such an elaborate, "lived-in" post-apocalyptic scenario, the writers also free themselves up to go in all sorts of new creative directions in the future. This level of promise is what excites me most about the film and any potential follow-ups, and I really hope they capitalize on it's success by continuing to take risks and go all out for future installments. I think if they do then this has the potential to turn into a Bond-esque series; being remade or reimagined for decades to come.
Overall, Army clearly stands out as the first actionhorror film in awhile which isn't afraid to take serious risks and aim for originality. Zack Snyder must have some sort of green card in Hollywood also, because the budget feels enormous for a concept so strange and experimental. It all pays off in spades though, resulting in an engaging, kinetic thrill-ride, filled with clever twists and turns. I have zero doubt that the film is going to do wonders as far as re-popularizing the serious-minded zombie flick (which we nearly lost due to garbage like The Walking Dead). So congrats Mr. Snyder! Despite never really being impressed with any of your DC movies, you definitely earned my fandom and then some with this one. I'm now eagerly awaiting what surprises you've got in store for us next. Bring on Army of the Dead Parts 2 and 3!
TLDR - Don't miss this one. It's easily the most innovative and fun zombie film in ages, and absolutely deserves it's own series.
Review by CMTempest from the Internet Movie Database.