Zack Snyder made his feature-film debut with the 2004 zombie redux, Dawn of the Dead. Eighteen years later, and with an entire DC comic-book “verse” behind him, the director returns to the genre with his own creation: the undead-filled, action-heavy heist thriller Army of the Dead. The one-last-mission saga, following a group of ex-zombie fighters fighting through undead-infested Las Vegas to crack a safe with millions in cash, is rowdy, cinematic excess. It’s pure Snyder.
True to form, it’s also just the beginning. As was the case with his Justice League films, Snyder embarked on the journey of Army of the Dead with a larger world and timeline in mind. Some of that story will be told in Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas, an animated prequel coming to Netflix in the not-too-distant future. Based on the film’s final scenes (which Snyder puts right into the main run of the picture, instead of shying away from the notion with an after-credits scene), the movie is poised to spawn a direct sequel, if the numbers make sense. While most filmmakers would be content with two zombie movies in their oeuvre, Snyder tells Polygon he knows exactly what he wants out of an Army of the Dead 2, and hopes he can return to bring that story to life.
“Shay [Hatten, co-writer] and I know exactly what happens next,” he says, “and it’s insane.”
[Ed. note: This story contains spoilers for the ending of Army of the Dead.]
By the end of Army of the Dead, most of the crew, including Dave Bautista’s ringleader Scott Ward, is dead. But thanks to a well-timed push into a casino safe, Scott’s old friend Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick) survives the nuclear blast. But a “nuke the fridge” moment can’t save him from a zombie’s bite. While he heads south of the border aboard a fancy private jet, it’s clear Vanderohe isn’t going to make it, and the world’s brain-eater problem isn’t over. Snyder “absolutely would” want to bring that “what if?” moment to life in a sequel.
“I’d make it in a second. What we have planned is too crazy. Once we knew Vanderohe was bit, and he’s going to Mexico City, I was like, ‘You know what’s gonna happen?’ And then I just went on a tear. And by the time it ended, Shay was like, ‘OK.’”
With a trigger-happy president ready to drop nukes on his problems — and even an appearance by Sean Spicer, former Trump White House Press Secretary — Army of the Dead has some of the blunt social-commentary edge of a classic zombie movie. A sequel that takes the action to Mexico could be equally biting. But throughout his Netflix romp, Snyder, who loves an Easter egg, planted traces of world-building that could pay off in wilder ways.
“How about the robot zombie? Did you catch those?” he says with a sinister chuckle. I did not, in fact, catch the robot zombies.
Snyder’s quick to point out that Zeus, the alpha zombie whose killing spree kickstarts the Sin City-wide apocalypse, escapes from a container in the opening sequence that (if you pause and squint at the right moment) is marked with a shipping address to Iran. “Like, is he some sort of covert bioweapon?” the director asks me, a person who did not make the movie.
Halfway through the movie, when the crew finally arrives at their target casino, Vanderohe and some of the crew discover a set of rotting bodies by the vault. The corpses all appear to be dressed exactly like Vanderohe’s group, right down to a specific necklace. In spite of their tight timeline, Vanderohe pauses to drop a theory: Maybe the corpses are them from an alternate timeline. The red herring-ish moment never comes up again, but it’s impossible to shake. What was the deal with that?
“I don’t know, what is the deal?” Snyder says, with even more sinister chuckling. “Is Tanaka [the bankroller of the heist operation] Devil or God, and we’re just pawns in some perverse play?”
There could be answers in an Army of the Dead 2, if Netflix greenlights the film and Snyder isn’t busy elsewhere. The director says his long-gestating drama Horse Latitudes (previously known as The Last Photograph) is still on the docket, though COVID suspended his ambitious plans to shoot around the world in places like Bolivia and Iceland. Meanwhile, Snyder says he’s finally wrapped a script he’s been chipping away at for five years, and is “trying to get Netflix to agree to do it.”
Is it sci-fi? Horror? More grounded drama? “It’s a big, giant, crazy movie,” he says. So one thing is clear: Whether he makes the mystery project his next film or he moves on to Army of the Dead 2, viewers should expect pure Snyder out of the deal.