Whether you love his films or not, there’s no denying that Zack Snyder is one of the boldest, most unashamedly stylistic filmmakers of all time. His resume speaks for itself. From “Dawn of the Dead,” to “Watchmen,” to “300,” to “Batman v Superman,” Snyder has spent over 15 years bringing audiences some of what they crave most: genre thrills coated in glorious slow-motion and served with a side of top-tier special effects making for a product so distinct, its as though it was ripped out of the pages of a graphic novel. He’s unafraid of spectacle, but his critics seem to focus solely on that, almost obtusely ignoring his ability to craft emotional and thematically rich character stories, particularly when dealing with the notion of parenthood and family.
Enter “Army of the Dead.” Coming off of the tumultuous production of “Justice League” and an immense personal tragedy, Snyder brings us his latest take on the zombie genre with his directorial hallmarks aplomb. Set in Las Vegas after the zombie apocalypse ravages the city – and ONLY that city – “Army of the Dead” stars Dave Bautista in a knockout role as a hard-edged mercenary who is leading a crew into Vegas to steal $200 million before the city goes up in a nuclear blast, partly so that he can secure his future, but primarily so that he can rebuild his relationship with his estranged daughter (Ella Purnell).
“Army of the Dead” is a special film for Snyder as he not only wrote and directed the project but got back behind the lens serving as its director of photography and sole cameraman. “There’s no sitting down, like, I banned chairs from the set,” said Snyder, “but the nice thing is, it’s really intimate. I can just talk to the actors right there, I’m not back in a monitor across the room. It was definitely the most purely engaged I’ve been making a movie.”
With the hype generated by Snyder’s return to the zombie genre, there’s already work being done on at least two spin-offs: an animated series, and a prequel starring Matthias Schweighöfer as Ludwig Dieter, a safecracking genius from the main film. “We’re in the middle of the animated series, and [the sequel] about Dieter’s character in Germany,” said Snyder. “It’s kind of a romantic comedy about him being drawn into this international crime syndicate. It’s a pretty low-budget movie, but it’s pretty big feeling. They go all over Europe and they’re being chased by Interpol.” The fact that the “Army of the Dead” universe is being expanded like this is sure to please “Dawn of the Dead” fans who never got the sequel or expansion that they desired from that earlier film.
Those who missed out on “Dawn of the Dead” during its initial release were probably introduced to Snyder through “300”, the semi-fantastical historical epic recounting the Battle of Thermopylae. Though the film enjoyed a Snyder-produced sequel with 2014’s “300: Rise of an Empire,” a third entry never came to fruition. “You know, we did talk about it a lot, a whole bunch of different iterations for ‘300 Part III.’ And who knows, maybe there will be still? I couldn’t really get my teeth into it. I [tried to write] the final chapter, but I actually [ended up writing] a different movie. I was writing this thing about Alexander the Great, and it just turned into a movie about Hephaestion and Alexander. It didn’t really fit as the third [‘300’].”
During our conversation with Zack Snyder, we also discussed his long-rumored George Washington film, his upcoming King Arthur adaptation, crafting an instantly iconic opening title sequence for “Army of the Dead,” zombie carnage and mayhem, and much more!
“Army of the Dead” is currently in select theaters, and debuts on Netflix on May 21. Check out our full interview with Snyder below, where we dive deep into the making of the zombie heist thriller, as well as the rest of the filmmaker’s brilliant career.
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