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It’s fascinating that Zack Snyder’s “Army of the Dead” has become a complete franchise in such a short period of time. Is this the new way of doing things? It’s not uncommon for a film to have a sequel green-lit before the first film is released—sometimes they’re even produced concurrently if they’re telling the same story, as with Peter Jackson’s films—but Snyder’s return to the world of the undead came into existence with a prequel and TV series already in the works is almost startling. What if people despised the term “Army”? I assume Netflix isn’t too concerned about the issue of quality. As a result, a prequel film, TV series, and traditional sequel are all in various stages of development in the streaming pipeline. Snyder is expected to film “Planet of the Dead,” while the animated series “Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas” will air next year.
Until then, viewers may watch the prequel, “Army of Thieves,” which debuted on Netflix today with a burst of energetic editing aimed to conceal some significant pacing issues and boring characters. It’s a heist-action film that takes forever to get going, and its admittedly entertaining second half can’t compensate for the monotonous first half. Also, you must try to play this Which Army Of Thieves Character Are You quiz.
Which Army Of Thieves Character Are You?
Snyder remains as producer, but directorial duties are passed over to Matthias Schweighöfer, who played safecracker Dieter Ludwig in the zombie thriller. The wisecracking criminal was one of the film’s highlights, providing a great counterpoint to the more typical alpha males played by Dave Bautista and Omari Hardwick. Having said that, a character who serves as a supplement to the main action in a film like “Army” does not always function as well as the centerpiece. The main issue with “Army of Thieves” is that it doesn’t feel like anyone except Netflix’s international members requested 130 minutes of Dieter.
“Army of Thieves” takes set six years before the events of “Army of the Dead,” as the world is just beginning to accept the truth of a zombie outbreak—largely it’s visible in the background on news stories and in a few of Dieter’s prophetic nightmares. Dieter (known as Sebastian in this scenario for reasons revealed later) is in his early days of safecracking expertise, and he creates a rarely-seen YouTube video on four legendary safes based on Wagner’s Ring Cycle. Remember how enthusiastic Sebastian was in “Army of the Dead” about cracking the famed Götterdämmerung safe in Vegas? That’s because it was the final safe of a quartet of expertly crafted machines. Sebastian’s respect for these safes is one of Schweighöfer’s qualities as a director/actor. They aren’t just challenges for a criminal to overcome; he views them as a mountain climber contemplating Everest. The task is as thrilling as the outcome.
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Sebastian receives an enigmatic invitation to a safe-cracking tournament similar to Fight Club but with less blood. Of course, he wins, demonstrating his abilities to an observer named Gwendoline (Nathalie Emmanuel), who recruits him into a group of crooks trying to break the other three safes before they are decommissioned. Once again, this is a narrative about a window of opportunity. The impending apocalypse will make this work much more difficult, therefore Gwendoline, Korina (Ruby O. Fee), Rolph (Guz Khan), and Brad Cage must act quickly (Stuart Martin).
“Army of Thieves,” clearly aimed for the international market, is an unusual bird, a prequel to a zombie action film with few zombies and less action. The opening hour of “Thieves” is interminable—an it’s hour before there’s anything like true action—and there’s just no reason for this film to extend over 130 minutes other than Snyder’s penchant for length. It’s a shame, because “Army of Thieves” really comes to life once the plotting ends and the heists begin. Schweighöfer certainly learned a lot from Snyder’s talent with slo-mo, hyper-stylized action as a director, but he doesn’t feel entirely like he’s just replicating his collaborator’s eye. The robbery scenes are as well-executed as they need to be in order for a film like this to work—they make this prequel that no one really wanted at least an amusing diversion.