As a haphazard zombie fan and a full-time supporter of films using Nevada settings, Army of the Dead hit my must-see radar. Though it fails to rank as either the top zombie or best Nevada movie ever, Army of the Dead provides enough servings of each to warrant a viewing. Well, with qualifications.
First of all, though set in Las Vegas, the movie was filmed in New Mexico and Atlantic City, whose locations bear a passing resemblance to Nevada. And as a dystopian story where only remnants of Vegas remain, the substitutions suffice. Plus, all the computer generation experts got inspirations by using the real Las Vegas, including key tourism lures like the city’s welcome sign.
A second qualification to appreciating the movie happens because not everyone loves the basic components of stories dealing with flesh-eating monsters. But director Zack Snyder does and proved it with his breakthrough movie, a remake of the George Romero classic, Dawn of the Dead. Snyder knows the archetype that Romero created: a pandemic mass of infectious, mindless monsters whose sheer numbers overwhelm humanity.
Romero’s groundbreaking Night of the Living Dead also added the splatter element by graphically showing unappealing dining shots rather than cutting his camera away from action that early generations considered unwatchable. Some fifty years down the line, Snyder ups the ante of colorful gushing shots designed to please rather than shock fans of the splatter genre. Fans also know a couple of other protocols, like “don’t get attached.” In other words, avoid liking any certain character too much because of minimal chances for them to survive before the end credits roll.
Snyder nonetheless brings in likable performers, such as Dave Bautista, the pro-wrestler turned actor in Guardians of the Galaxy. Snyder, who directed some Superman movies, expands a comic source sensibility to his project, ladling on the visuals. And Nevada steps in for that: where else do you get the Eifel Tower, a pyramid, the Statue of Liberty, and a zombie white tiger, all to the sounds of Elvis Presley?
To quote the Nevada-filmed movie Swingers, “Vegas, baby. Vegas.”