Fourteen years in the making, it feels like Zack Snyder’s career has been leading up to his opus, the zombie-heist movie Army Of The Dead.
Set in a dystopian version of Las Vegas where two tribes of zombies - the Alphas and Shamblers - rule, a team of renegades and vigilantes attempt to pull off a $200 million casino vault heist before the US government drops a nuclear bomb on the city. Look, there’s almost three action films rolled into one here, which probably accounts for the decade-and-a-half long production to go from script to screen.
Snyder started off his career with zombies, and now at the peak of his career, he’s circled back to the brain-munching creatures, by way of the DC Universe. But how has he created his own Snyderverse, and where does he go next?
Snyder’s first feature length film was a remake of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead in 2004, which Romero awkwardly revealed later “I sort of thought it lost its reason for being... I didn’t like it very much”. That had to hurt - a diss from one of Synder’s heroes and the godfather of zombie flicks.
Unperturbed, Snyder moved on to gory fantasy war film, 300, in 2006, which he followed up with Watchmen (2009), then Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (2010). His leap into comic book and superhero territory then followed, as he directed Man of Steel, the reboot of the Superman film that launched the DC Extended Universe.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League followed, but Snyder stepped down during Justice League’s post-production following the death of his daughter, and Joss Whedon was hired to finish the film, completing it as an uncredited director. However, fans created an online petition to release his own cut of the film, Zack Snyder's Justice League (aka The Snyder Cut) that gained more than 180,000 signatures and it was released in 2021.
Back to the future
Army Of The Dead appears to be the start of a big franchise for Snyder. It finally arrives on screen on Netflix in May and the ambiguous ending - no massive spoilers, but someone important gets bitten by a zombie - and who gets left behind means there’s scope to take it into the future with a sequel.
Chronologically confusingly, however, a prequel to Army Of The Dead called Army Of Thieves will arrive first. It will focus on the character of Ludwig Dieter - the German safe-cracker -and the film will be directed by the actor who plays him, Matthias Schweighöfer. Also starring are Nathalie Emmanuel, Guz Khan, Ruby O. Fee, Noemie Nakai and Peter Simonischek. Filming wrapped at the end of 2020, so we could potentially see its release by the end of 2021 or early 2022.
Meanwhile, it was announced that an anime-style TV series is also planned to expand the brand. Netflix has already signed up for Army Of The Dead: Lost Vegas, which will focus on the origins of Dave Bautista's character, Scott Ward. It will feature most of the original cast returning to voice their respective characters, and will be set in the early phases of the zombie outbreak.
What does Snyder say about the future of his Snyderverse?
At the press launch of Army Of The Dead, he said there’s a big reveal still to be uncovered in the film that will be used in the animated series: “We’ll explore the zombie’s ambiguities in the animated series, and without giving too much away, if you pay close attention, there’s a number of zombies that clearly aren’t zombies. You see normal zombies then you see some robot zombies. Are they monitors that the government has placed among the zombies to monitor them? Are they technology from the other world? What’s happening there?”. Hang on, you’re meant to tell us, Zack.
Asked whether there’s a central mythology to it all, a sort of zombie bible, he added: “Oh yeah, we’ve worked it out. There’s definitely a bible and now after having made the animated series, I think it’s definitely scaled appropriately...I hope the film leaves people hungry for more”. Hungry for the next outing of the Snyder army, yes; less so for dinner after all those bloody flesh-eating zombie attacks.
Army Of The Dead is streaming now on Netflix
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