Zack Snyder has become adept at world-building with his last 8 years of work on the DCEU. It seems his latest project Army of the Dead will continue in the same vein with plenty left to unpack when the closing credits roll. Snyder has already talked up ideas of a sequel and left fans with much to discuss until then. Here are 5 of the most intriguing mysteries Army of the Dead left unexplained.
Snyder of course has a pedigree in the zombie genre by way of his 2004 directorial debut and George A. Romero classic remake Dawn of the Dead. Fans expecting more of the same from Army of the Dead would have been sorely mistaken though as these monsters are an entirely new breed. The exact origins of the zombies is another mystery in itself but it is made clear from their behaviour that they are a step up the food chain from the zombies audiences are used to. Better categorised as the Shamblers who are also present in Las Vegas.
Eagle-eyed viewers also spotted a third type of walker amongst the horde though, in what appears to be robot zombies. In several blink-and-you’ll-miss-them cameos, these robot zombies are barely distinguishable from the crowd barring their glowing eyes and mechanical undertones. None of the main cast ever acknowledges the anomalies despite having run-ins with them, although given the intense nature of these encounters it’s safe to assume the crew had more pressing matters at hand.
One person who has acknowledged them was Snyder himself though stating “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.” The purpose of these robot zombies remains unknown however Snyder did also weigh in with a few theories to get the ball rolling adding: “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?”
The looming presence of Area 51 from the opening exchange of dialogue is another mystery that warrants further dissection. Presuming there is some extraterrestrial force at play that could explain the robot’s presence in the movie. As for government surveillance, it’s another strong possibility. Why the government would nuke a city full of their likely expensive tech and why Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada) and his military acquaintances would go to such lengths to create a zombie army when the means to create an artificial one already exists, might go some way to debunking the latter though.
At least audiences won’t have to wait too long for answers on this one, the origins of the robot zombies are expected to be covered in the upcoming animated prequel Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas.
One of the more bizarre exchanges in the film takes place between Ludwig Dieter (Matthias Schweighöfer) and Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick) when they are approaching the safe for the first time. Moments before they blow the gates Dieter draws focus to a group of corpses on the floor, suggesting they didn’t have the proper tools for the job. In an earlier scene, Scott Ward (Dave Bautista) already establishes they are not the first team Tanaka has sent in upon discovery of some blueprints left lying around.
It is reasonable to assume that the corpses are those of the first heist crew but Vanderohe presents audiences with another off the wall theory. That the corpses in fact belong to them and the crew are caught in an infinite time loop of trying and failing to heist the vault. The theory seemingly falls away after that one scene but the obtuse nature of it warrants the question as to why Snyder included that snippet of dialogue. And there are a number of nods that suggest this might not be filler dialogue after all.
When Dieter first draws focus to the corpses their similar appearance to the crew is noted, with particular focus on Maria Cruz (Ana de la Reguera) and a distinct locket she has hanging from her neck. The obvious abnormality is the corpse resembling Marianne Peters (Tig Notaro), as Peters never enters the vault. Instead, she is up on the roof the whole time attempting to get the chopper running. The discrepancy could account for the difference in outcome with the crew clearly having taken a different route in this version of events.
The other key plot point that could prove this theory is the fate of the men involved in the initial conversation. Vanderohe is sealed in the vault by Dieter to protect him from Zeus when he attacks the duo. Dieter is presumed dead from this point but his fate is never actually confirmed on-screen. Vanderohe meanwhile is seemingly trapped with mere minutes until the nuke drops which also appears to seal his fate. Except in the films final scene, we see Vanderohe somehow escaping miraculously unscathed.
After taking his large sum of cash to charter a private jet, Vanderohe heads to the bathroom only to discover he has been bitten. At no point in the film is Vanderohe shown to be bitten and in fact, Dieter narrowly saved him from that fate moments before sealing him inside the vault. With so much left unsaid in Vanderohe’s narrative it raises the question, is this the same Vanderohe from the film’s events or is it his timeline doppelganger? Another upcoming prequel Army of Thieves looks set to explore Dieter further, perhaps offering further insight into this compelling mystery.
As previously discussed the movie opens with two men who are transporting some unknown cargo of a highly classified variety. The pair discuss what they expect they could be shipping with one of them setting up another loose thread of the narrative. The cargo was picked up from Area 51, a notable hotspot for extraterrestrial narratives, which leads the character to question whether they are transporting an alien.
When a distracted driver collides with the transport truck the cargo is sent hurtling across the road with the back popping open. What follows in the first glimpse of the alpha later referred to as Zeus. He makes short work of the remaining transport team before heading towards Las Vegas to set up the events for the rest of the movie.
Zeus clearly behaves differently than zombies in traditional zombie fiction which raises the possibility, what is he’s not a zombie at all? Given the initial interaction, audiences are lead to believe that Zeus himself could even be from another world. And although his name is derived from the statute outside of the Olympus, it also fits a metaphor that raises him to godlike status having come from the sky and being obscenely powerful compared to his human counterparts.
This also potential ties into one of the main theories surrounding the robot zombies that they are some kind of alien technology. Zeus is shown to have been around long enough to have formed a hierarchical civilisation within Las Vegas and he grasps the significance of armaments so perhaps he’s even been building the monstrous automatons to serve as an extra line of defence.
One of the few efforts to humanize Zeus, further removing him from the role of the monster, is his relationship with his queen and their unborn child. Given that zombies are traditionally undead it’s an illogical fallacy to presume they can create life or give birth. Yet in Army of the Dead Zeus’ queen is shown to be pregnant.
The movie first hints at the idea with a tender scene between the two but after Martin (Garret Dillahunt) decapitates the queen, Zeus rushes her body back to the Olympus in an attempt to save his child. His efforts fail and it’s the loss of his unborn child that sends him into a blind rage leading to the movies dramatic climax.
Zack Snyder confirmed in an interview with Esquire that his zombies can indeed procreate. The director also confirmed that this was not a miraculous conception and even went as far as to suggest the zombies were some kind of superior evolutionary race to mankind. “I believe that some zombie love happened, some sweet zombie lovemaking,” he said. “They’re like a better us. They’re no longer destroying their environment. They’re not fighting with each other. They’re less bad for everybody. They’re less toxic.”
So the how seems pretty definitive but there are still plenty of unanswered questions around zombie babies. For one the queen was shown to be alive long after her head was removed from her body yet the baby didn’t show the same resiliency. It remains to be seen what traits next-generation zombies will retain or even improve upon given Snyder’s nod to evolution.
The origins of Zeus remain a mystery for now but aside from where he came from there are a few other behaviors the zombie alpha shows that separate him from the horde. Zeus is not only the blueprint for this new strain of intelligent zombie but he alone has to infect people for them to become the same strain. Humans turned by his other alphas become the Shamblers seen populating the strip in a largely unthreatening and stationary manner.
Zeus appears to exhibit an unchallenged authority over his followers as well as showing a higher level of intellect and ability such as covering his head with a bulletproof mask and riding a horse. But it might not be the case that Zeus is the only one who could exhibit these traits as Army of the Dead drops some pretty apparent clues to point to Vanderohe as the new alpha or perhaps even something more.
In one scene where Vanderohe is topless, he appears to be branded with the omega symbol. Some fans took this as an easter egg for Darkseid in Snyder’s Justice League, the principal DC antagonist who gets his powers from an energy called the Omega Effect. But in keeping with the Greek theme of Olympus and Zeus, omega is of course the last letter of the Greek alphabet, often used to symbolize the end.
Given that Zeus is also referred to as the alpha and Vanderohe is shown to be infected at the end, this could logically make him the omega. Another unique strain of zombie that could signal the end of mankind, which is often where most zombie fiction heads. According to Snyder, Army of the Dead 2 would continue Vanderohe’s story when he teased the potential for a sequel:
“Shay and I know exactly what happens next and it’s insane… 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.”/lisTop