With Army of the Dead, Zack Snyder intends to show that zombies are also victims

The film’s release on Netflix is ​​the end of a horrific project in more ways than one that almost never left Hollywood purgatory.

Bringing to life the storyline of a zombie movie buried nearly ten years ago by Hollywood: Irony may not have escaped Zack Snyder’s notice. Just like for his final version of Justice league released at the beginning of the year, its Army of the Dead which appears today on Netflix has come a long way. From 2004 to be precise. So fresh from his first feature film, a remake of Dawn of the dead by George Romero, the director is bubbling with ideas. To deepen the cinematographic genre devoted to the living dead in which he has just dipped a bone, Zack Snyder becomes infatuated with a story that he imagines as a zombie reinterpretation of New York 1997 , transposed to Las Vegas. “It all started from there, he said since. I wanted to have fun ”. His screenplay will however be relegated to Hollywood abysses for more than a decade.

Because he wasn’t planning on doing a second zombie movie afterwards Dawn of the dead, Zack Snyder has long left his guilty film-loving pleasure to another director, keeping control of the production. A time attached to the project, the Dutchman Matthijs van Heijningen sees complications accumulate and reluctance multiply around the film he inherited. Its budget in particular, as enormous as a filming in Las Vegas can be, made the effect of a scarecrow with the producers of Warner from the financial crisis of 2008. At the dawn of the 2010s, the prospects of see the project succeed one day thin to the point of eventually evaporating. “It didn’t happen for a variety of reasons, explained Deborah Snyder, co-producer of the film, at a press conference in early May. The budget was wrong, and we had a young director. So, it was just the wrong time. ”

Dave Bautista and Zack Snyder in the middle of an undead mass grave. CLAY ENOS / NETFLIX

The resurrection of Army of the Dead doesn’t arrive until the end of 2018. After taking a break after the tragic loss of their daughter in 2017, Zack and Deborah Snyder set out to unearth their zombie story. They present the project to Netflix which accepts it immediately, with the director at the helm and a budget of $ 90 million, sufficient sum to shoot in Atlantic City if not in Nevada. Like all of the living dead, however, the film returns to the light of day in a slightly different form. “I told them: “I want to rewrite the script”. I didn’t even look at the old project. I got into it saying to myself “This is how I remember it” , assured Zack Snyder in a jovial tone. And so, of course, it evolved because I changed; the scope of the film is different. “

A new script for a new vision

At the announcement of the collaboration between Zack Snyder and Netflix on Army of the Dead, at the beginning of 2019, the screenplay is therefore being rewritten. While the first version of the script took up the principle of a rescue mission in the style of New York 1997 – with a hero gone to find his daughter whose helicopter crashed in front of the Bellagio, in the heart of Las Vegas -, the new version of the story tells of a burglary, the heist of the century. A mixture of genres to say the least unexpected.

Of course, it evolved because I changed; the scope of the film is different.

Zack Snyder

A millionaire hires Scott (Dave Bautista), an ex-soldier, to assemble a team and get his hands on the $ 200 million stored in a casino safe. In the midst of the colorful troop venturing into central Vegas, the hardened soldier finds himself accompanied by his daughter, Kate (Ella Purnell), a humanitarian worker familiar with the field and eager to come to the aid of civilians stranded in city. Far from the character of a young woman in distress. Well in tune with the times, the team accompanying Scott to Vegas is made up of half of women.

Raùl Castillo, Zack Snyder, Nora Arnezeder and Ana de la Reguera during the filming of Army of the Dead. CLAY ENOS / NETFLIX

With the rewrite, the film also loses its more dubious protrusions of violence that punctuated Zack Snyder’s original proposal. According to the secrets slipped a few years ago by Matthijs van Heijningen, the original scenario included, for example, a scene of rape committed by a zombie and the birth of a baby half-dead, half-alive. If the new version remains recommended to an informed public, these scenes have been abandoned. “I have evolved humanly since I created Dawn of the Dead, explained Zack Snyder. Having kids, being a father… I feel like this part of the film has really become a lot more important to me than it was 15 years ago. ”

Passed through the sieve of age and experience, the trashy feature film imagined by the director in the 2000s is now presented in a more nuanced light, with zombies that have gained in depth, even in humanity. The lines between the living and the dead, the aggressor and the victimized, are more blurred than ever. “We’re not just nice or just bad, it’s more complex than that”, assures Nora Arnezeder, who plays in the feature film the mercenary Lily, a fierce expert in Vegas zombie. “Many living dead, zombies are also victims; these are humans who have passed to the other side, she emphasizes. And I think it’s the first time we’ve seen humanized zombies, which have emotions. ” As proof, we must see the duo of charismatic undead who run the necropolis of Vegas evolve.

With his swift, intelligent, and loving creatures preferred to the classic staggering and dazed cohorts, Zack Snyder walks straight into a valley of the bizarre far more likely to provoke unease than easy fright and stunts. hemoglobins. “The zombie movie is a monster movie where the monster… is us. It’s us without our humanity ”, summarizes the director. From this set of mirrors on both sides of the tomb arises the real fear of this Army of the Dead : that of the vertigo of life. A tale more tantalizing than the hymn to death that Zack Snyder first imagined almost twenty years ago.


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