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Army of the Dead
Image: Time Out/Netflix

The 'Army of the Dead' prequels have a LOT of weird questions to answer

Wait, zombie robots?

By Andy Kryza
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Spoilers ahead...

Love it or hate it, director Zack Snyder’s zombie heist flick Army of the Dead has utterly hijacked the cultural conversation, with the film rising to the top of Netflix’s worldwide hit list and bum-rushing the vacuum left by a theatrical landscape that hasn’t seen a big blockbuster since Godzilla Vs. Kong

The film, starring Dave Bautista as a mercenary who assembles a crew to infiltrate a casino vault in a zombie-infested Las Vegas, crams a lot into its 2.5 hour run time. This is a film featuring a zombie tiger, commandos going John Wick on the undead and a legion of highly evolved smart zombies who ride around the wasteland on partially decomposed horses. 

It also leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Whether they'll questions are the result of plot holes or world building remains to be seen, but we’ll find out soon enough: Netflix went all in on Snyder’s grim apocalyptic vision, commissioning a prequel film — titled Army of Thieves and directed by breakout star Matthias Schweighöfer — along with an animated prequel featuring much of the cast. That's to say nothing of the inevitable as-yet-unannounced sequel teased at the end of the film. 

With all that Snyder throws at the screen—and Snyder is nothing if not a kitchen-sink (in slow mo!) kind of director— here are the most pressing, gonzo things fans are clamoring to know.

Massive spoilers for Army of the Dead below…

Who is actually dead?

Snyder’s film takes a Rogue One-like approach to its ensemble: Most of the cast gets mangled by zombies or vaporized in a nuke blast that hits Vegas in the grand finale. That includes Bautista’s Ward and primary antagonist Zeus (Richard Cetrone), the smart zombie and presumed patient zero who rules the Vegas wasteland; would-be love interest Maria (Ana de la Reguera); and helicopter pilot Gig Notaro, last seen impaled by a blade from her own crashed bird. 

Once the credits roll, only two main characters remain, and one of them has a gnarly zombie bite on his arm. The other is Kate (Ella Purnell), Scott's daughter who tags along to search for refugee Geeta (Huma Qureshi), who herself disappeared while looking for money in Vegas. 

But for a film with so many splattered bodies, quite a few characters seemingly die offscreen. Snyder has been coy about whether offscreen character departures automatically mean deaths, telling The Film JunkeeYou would say in a horror movie if we don't see you die ... by the rules of horror…” 

Snyder is referring to Schweighöfer’s expert safecracker, who is seen being pulled away by Zeus’ minions in an act of self sacrifice. But it could also apply to “coyote” Lilly (Nora Arnezeder), who is last seen pinned to a concrete wall by a rebar spear. Then there's Geeta, who seemingly disappears during a helicopter crash at the climax of the film and is never spoken of again, much to the chagrin of many viewers. 

Logic would dictate anyone left in Vegas died during the bombing, but the final scene reveals that Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick) survived the blast while locked in a safe, only to walk through an irradiated fallout zone and rent a private plane to Mexico… then realize mid-flight that he was bitten by Zeus, thus setting up a potential sequel set in Mexico City. 

Whether that sequel will provide answers as to the fates of characters like Dieter, Geeta and Lilly is anyone’s guess, but one thing is for sure: The guy whose head was eaten by the zombie tiger is not returning for the sequel.

Zombie queen
Photo: Netflix

How do zombies reproduce?

Zack Snyder loves zombie babies. He depicted the birth of the undead in his debut film, 2004’s Dawn of the Dead, and he showed a zombie c-section in Army. Toward the end of the third act, villainous commando Martin (Garret Dillahunt) decapitates the zombie queen (more on that later), only for Zeus to retrieve her body and extract an expired fetus with a slightly blue glow.  

So, um… how? Do zombies have functioning reproductive organs? Do they have sex? The answer might be even grosser than you think. Way back in 2011, details emerged that the long-gestating Army of the Dead's original draft included scenes in which zombies sexually assaulted humans in order to procreate. 

That subplot was excised, thankfully. But while Army does show Zeus and the queen behaving affectionately toward one another, it’s also revealed that the zombies take humans hostage and store them in a hotel. The film never says why, though knowing what was in the original draft makes the subplot grosser. 

Some fans are speculating that Lilly could become the new zombie queen in the sequel after dropping the queen's head off a building in full view of Zeus. Fingers crossed that she isn’t also a vessel for a birds & bees lesson about zombie babies. 

Are the zombies aliens?

Most zombie movies stray away from explaining the origins of the outbreak, though the original Night of the Living Dead does speculate about alien origins. Snyder digs into that notion, as the film opens with Zeus being transported from Area 51. Some eagle-eyed fans noticed UFO-like lights in the sky, furthering this alien origin as a theory as to why Zeus is so intelligent, and in possession of super strength and a body that seems to absorb bullets.  

Meanwhile, the blue glow on the zombie baby might be an indication that there’s something much more extraterrestrial at play, which could be addressed in either prequel entry. 

Are the heroes in a time loop?

In the third act, Vanderohe and Dieter come across a bunch of skeletal remains dressed similarly to the main characters, and Vanderohe starts speculating about whether the group is actually in a time loop, saying it’s "another team… or is it us?"  

What could be a throwaway gag not unlike the encounter with the “topple-gang” in Sean of the Dead gets deeper, with Vanderohe going off into the kind of wild theorization usually reserved for Marvel films, speculating that Tanaka, the man who hired them, is the devil trapping them in an infinite loop. 

Internet sleuths grabbed on pretty fiercely, analyzing the film’s every corner and coming up with elaborate theories about the characters being stuck a hell of their own making. Some suggest a multiverse. 

Whether there’s any clout to this theory, Snyder is never one to leave any weirdness off the table, and with the mysterious Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada) sure to be explored in the prequels, perhaps things are leaning more otherworldly. Or maybe Snyder's fans have more in common with Stanley Kubrick's than they know. 

Is Tanaka developing bioweapons?

In the opening of the film, Zeus escapes from a military convoy, and Tanaka is constantly flanked by military personnel. Later, Martin—before becoming a head-cheese appetizer for a tiger—reveals that the whole heist was a ruse: the real mission objective was to obtain zombie blood in order to create a bioweapon. He then ups the ante by taking the queen zombie’s head, because Zack Snyder is nothing if not subtle.  

Zombies as bioweapons are nothing new: The entire Resident Evil franchise is built upon the concept. But how far reaching is Tanaka’s scheme? Viewers will note that Zeus’ shipping container is addressed to Iran, so should the casino owner’s plans unfold according to plan — and it seems he’ll get another chance with the inevitable outbreak in Mexico — it could look like all-out Armageddon.

Um, what about the zombie robots?

At one point in the bombastic final shootout, Ward hits a zombie point-blank in the face, which peels back to reveal glowing eyes and a metallic endoskeleton. It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, one that many viewers likely shrugged off as a special effects gaffe. 

But nope, Snyder has been pretty clear that it was a robot, and not the only one. 

"I really wanted this sort of weird ambiguity to their origins — which, of course, we'll explore in the animated series, Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas,” Snyder told Comicbook.com well before the movie was released. “If you pay close attention, there's a number of zombies that are clearly not zombies. You see normal zombies and 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?" 

So yeah… Army of the Dead includes robot zombies throughout. But why? Apparently, we have to watch the animated series to find out.

Will we ever see the damn saw in use?

This is more a gripe than a question, but Army of the Dead makes a huge what-to-do about Vanderohe’s gigantic, impractical weapon of choice: A huge circular saw. He’s briefly seen wielding it in the opening credits. He scolds another character for touching it. He’s even shown digging it up from a desert hiding place in a scene similar to John Wick’s retrieval of his stash of guns. Clearly, to borrow a phrase, the saw is family. 

Then we never see him use it after a brief glimpse in the intro. And with Vanderoe en route to a new gig as an alpha zombie south of the border, it’s unlikely we ever will.  

Why does this man love the saw so much? Like the robot zombies, we’ll have to watch Lost Vegas to find out. 

See what Time Out thought of Army of the Dead

And queue up your next big scare with Time Out's 100 greatest horror films of all time

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