“Army of the Dead” basically skips straight to “the Snyder cut” phase, since co-writer/director/cinematographer Zack Snyder clearly felt little pressure to cut in assembling this 2 ½-hour zombie/heist hybrid. The result is a Netflix movie that yields plenty of striking shots — a Snyder specialty — without giving enough life to its non-zombie cast.
Snyder actually directed the 2004 remake “Dawn of the Dead” early in his career, before “300” and his extensive sojourn into the world of graphic novels and superheroes. While “zombie/heist” is convenient shorthand — “Ocean’s Eleven” meets “The Walking Dead” — the movie mashes up several genres and older films, owing perhaps its most sizable debt to “Aliens,” to the point of pilfering a memorable line of dialogue. Like that film, this one involves a squad of soldiers (OK, mercenaries here, but close enough) heading into a perilous setting surrounded by slavering creatures, carrying out their mission under a ticking-clock scenario. The monsters, moreover, might be a little more complex than customary incarnations, adding an extra degree of difficulty.
In this case, the task involves cleaning out a Las Vegas casino vault before the government drops a nuke on the city to eradicate the zombie threat. If the idea of Sin City being overrun by mindless zombies sounds almost redundant, well, that’s intended to be part of the fun. The main problem is that Snyder spends more than a third of the movie setting up the premise and assembling his team, before the real action begins in earnest. And while there’s an inevitable “Who will make it?” quality to this sort of exercise, too few of the characters stand out enough to make the prospect of becoming zombie food as concerning as it should be. That begins with the group’s leader, Scott Ward, played by “Guardians of the Galaxy’s” Dave Bautista. He brings his share of baggage along for the ride, including his strained relationship with his grown daughter (Ella Purnell), which is mostly as tired as that sounds.