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ARMY OF THE DEAD is a remake of Cameron’s ALIENS – change my mind

Army of the Dead steals whole swaths of plots, dramatic solutions and character archetypes from the universe of Aliens.

Rafał Donica

8 February 2023

aliens army of the dead

I watched Army of the Dead without any particular expectations, and, although not without a little boredom at the moderately exciting dialogues, I enjoyed myself quite a bit. For this film has something cool about it, something indefinitely epic, maybe it’s a matter of the atmospheric location, maybe it’s my favorite 16:9 aspect ratio, maybe the fact that it was shot with a Canon Dream Lens with f/0.95 light, or maybe… it’s Maybelline. And it has some fleeting promise of something more (oh, that prologue!), some untapped potential of the location of the action, hidden underneath the improved plasticine characters, and dialogues about nothing, leading nowhere, or at best to a hummus stall. What this show has in it is largely the widely criticized… plot, almost one hundred percent borrowed from… James Cameron’s cult film. And not only from him, because the plot of Army of the Dead with its roots goes all the way back to Alien by the master Scott, and finally stretches its dead paws for a piece of Fincher’s Alien^3. It also takes the motif of a cut-off place full of dangerous degenerates, between whom you have to walk on tiptoes, from Carpenter’s Escape from New York. We, however, will focus on sneaking whole swaths of plots, dramatic solutions and character archetypes, precisely from the world of Alien, with the emphasis (the container that encapsulated Las Vegas in the prologue) on Aliens.

Zack Snyder is famously adapts other people’s ideas, such was the case with his excellent debut, the remake of Romero’s Dawn of the Living Dead, such was the case with the calculated from the comics 300 and Watchmen – the director’s magnum opus. And so, finally, was the case with all those failed farts from the hastily constructed DC universe, except for Man of Steel, because that one was fun. Even the original Sucker Punch, wasn’t original at all, well, except maybe for the idiotic idea of a dance-walker transporting us to the locations of successive fantasy actions. For the backbone of the plot, Snyder based it on One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, as distant in genre from Sucker Punch as eternity. Baby Doll, after all, is none other than McMurphy in a skirt, bringing new energy to the mental institution, rousing the roommates to revolt, and, well, pissing off the psychopathic caretaker like an enemy on a swinging sniper. In the finale of Sucker Punch we already have a literally pasted motif from Milos Forman’s film; Baby Doll, like McMurphy, ends up electrocuted, and her friend, following the example of Chief Bromden, gets the courage to escape, and return to life in the world behind the walls of the institution, with the only difference being that the girl doesn’t pull the heavy sink out of the ground, because she wouldn’t make it. Curtain.

We return to Army of the Dead, which is also ostensibly a Zack Snyder original project and a Netflix original production. Meanwhile, it turns out that the director of Justice League, directed by Zack Snyder, and Zack Snyder’s Justice League directed by Zack Snyder, mistook inspiration for plagiarism. Indeed, he took Aliens, and roughly speaking replaced the aliens with zombies. I’ll admit without a beat (I’d admit with a beat, too, by the way) that during the first screening of Army of the Dead, the only association I initially had with the masterpiece by action cinema visionary James Cameron was only the distinctive red headband on Maria Cruz’s head, which I thought was a rather cheap reference (well, because how much can such a headband cost, two bucks? ) to the iconic Vasquez Janette Goldstein, who did not bow down to men, sometimes (according to Hudson) even being mistaken for them. Hidden under the staffage of zombies huddled in Las Vegas, Snyder’s film, therefore, at first glance, did not arouse my greater suspicions, much less associations with the Alien universe, especially since Cameron gave his characters superb, spectacular means of transportation, while the creator of Army of the Dead, delivered his heroes to the scene of action in a school bus. Well Sulaco it was not. However, deep into the night, suddenly my brain threw out a message: ARMY OF THE DEAD IS A COPY OF ALIENS! I opened my eyes wide, and so I can not fall asleep to this day, hence this article to work through this issue with the readers of, and regain peace of mind.

The very starting idea, i.e., among other things, the briefly shown battle of Ward’s team against hordes of zombies, brings to mind the ending of Alien, where Ellen Ripley, wanting only to ventilate the stuffy cabin of an escape pod before her flight, accidentally threw a peacefully sleeping alien into space. Ripley, somewhat traumatized after this unpleasant incident, goes to sleep, and after waking up, it turns out that she gets an offer to return to a place with which she does not associate very warm memories. Dave Bautista’s character does the same; he lost his wife in Las Vegas by single-handedly stabbing her, struggled to get out of there, and on average likes the idea of returning to a place with monsters and bad memories. The only difference here is that Ellen Ripley went to sleep in the hibernation chamber, while Bautista went to fry chops. Ok, all joking aside, you get the point, the breakthrough of Alien / Aliens is a write-up of the prologue and the first dozen minutes of Army of the Dead, after cosmetic alterations, of course, and adapting the motivations of the characters to a place of action set on Earth, rather than in outer space. As for the prologue, by the way, it is an excellent foundation for the prequel, which already at the concept stage seems to be more interesting than the sequel, which would then become Army of the Dead. Could it be that Snyder used a patent from Star Wars, and also started his new dead series with an episode taken out of the middle of a larger whole?

Say what you will, while most viewers have turned their backs on Army of the Dead, I’m boldly stating that I’m enjoying this shit! I’m already after the second screening, which went surprisingly better than the first, and I’m already lurking to watch number three, getting ready for the final shootout watched very loudly, because the sound design is awesome. It also looks very specific, as Snyder (also the cinematographer) shot most of the scenes with the aforementioned 1960s-era Canon 50mm Dream Lens, with an incredibly bright f/0.95. The incredible power of this glass is evident from the almost abstractly small depth of field, giving a soft image, especially in close-up scenes of faces or objects that stay in focus, while the background is blurred in an almost fairy-tale-like way. Unfortunately, it works very badly against the light, creating all too visible light flickers, also noticeable in several scenes of Army of the Dead. It’s nice that Snyder is experimenting with the form, even if this one may not suit the tastes of a wider audience.

My fondness for Zack Snyder’s film is not some controversy-oriented or cheap sensationalism clickbait. Personally, I abhor clickbait almost as much as Wayne and Garth product placement…. Okay, enough of this word introduction, let’s get down to business. We’re going to mercilessly take Zack Snyder’s original work apart, and demonstrate that the king is naked, although his film still turns me on in its own twisted way, despite the obvious downsides.


Underlying the plot of Army of the Dead, we have a mysterious zombie transported by dumb military men, in an armored container. So armored, in fact, that after a car accident it politely opens its doors to let the dead evil out into the world in the form of a murderous dead man with the speed of a healthy marathon runner and the strength of Mariusz Pudzianowski from his prime time. Here Zack Snyder goes all the way back to Ridley Scott’s film, in which an equally mysterious egg opened up to give birth to a supernumerary passenger on the Nostromo ship. And in both Cameron’s and Synder’s films, no one here explained anything (until the release of Prometheus, of course), no genesis, no explanation of what came from where and why, shrouding everything in a nimbus of dark mystery. And that is cool.


The expedition of our brave heroes in both films has two goals. One overt and legitimate, and the other, hidden, insidious and evil. In Army of the Dead, Martin, one of the members of the group, an emissary of a mysterious corporation with connivance with the military, is tasked with bringing back from the exclusion zone a sample of blood, and in fact the entire head of a zombie. Along the way, of course, he bumps rubber with members of the team, either by closing the door in front of their noses or by leading them around by the nose. Ultimately, Martin himself is led around by the nose, and he is led around by a zombie-tiger, biting off his nose, and with it his entire face.

In Aliens, the original idea was to find out what happened that communications were cut with the colonists on LV 426. Were they exterminated by aliens, or are they lying somewhere stoned in a corner, after a party where someone accidentally ripped the cable out of the radio. The second goal of the Space Marines’ expedition, was to capture and bring back to Earth a xenomorph embryo, lurking in the bodies of Ripley and Newt, who found out they were volunteers, once there was an open jar on the floor of the lab, with no face inside. Behind this nasty act was the evil corporate employee Burke, who ended up, and rightly so, murdered by the stranger he met at the door. And since they didn’t know which one was going in and which one was going out, that is, which one had priority, it ended as it ended, that is, the stranger went after Burke. Literally, not that Burke went first and then the stranger.

Ah, in both films, the monsters are to serve military purposes, as perfect organisms. In the direction of both traitors, Burke and Martin, similar words are said in this context. In Aliens: They at least don’t prop each other up (about aliens), in Army of the Dead: Here the rules are clear, they don’t fuck each other up.


Okay, David Bautista’s character is not looking for his daughter in the strict sense, because he knows where she is. He is looking for redemption for killing her mother, and his wife, forgiveness in her eyes, he wants her affection, in a word, a return to healthy family relations and fried chops. In general, one of his motives for taking part in the mission to rake in millions is the prospect of showering his daughter with money so she can pursue her dreams. Ripley, on the other hand, in addition to wanting to work through her PTSD, decides to take part in the mission because, after decades of hibernation, she has learned that her daughter is dead, so she will try to look for a new one, on the planet LV 426. Oh, she accidentally found a little girl, just without parents, and in need of care. However, the most beautiful scenarios are written… by a movie screenwriter. Further the film revolves around the rescue of Newt, which forces Ripley to return alone into the very nest of the enemy. Also, Ward in the finale returns alone to get his daughter, where it is already moderately safe, and where the Zombie King prowls. What’s even more interesting is that both the Zombie King and the Alien Queen get their asses handed to them by Ward / Ripley from a grenade launcher. And most interestingly, the decision to undertake the mission, in both of our heroes, comes in the wake of a nightmare.


The most colorful character in Aliens was undoubtedly Hudson, a flamboyant wuss, throwing humorous ruses, hiding a shy hamster nature under a cloak of toughness and hardiness. If smartphones and social media had existed at the time of Aliens realization, it would have been him, following the example of Guzman from Army of the Dead, who would have acted as an influencer, running a live report from LV 426, counting the aliens killed, to the delight of his followers on Insta. And so, all he’s left with are verbal showdowns in front of his comrades, and, especially, bragging to those new to the team. How much I wondered what Hudson had in mind when, in the director’s cut of Aliens, he sparred in front of Ripley about what Space Marines aren’t knockoffs, what weapons they don’t use, plasma cannon, UZI 9 mm and all, the biggest barrels in the galaxy.

Hudson also mentioned in a line of text: We have knives, sharp sticks and while I know what knives are, what the famous sharp sticks were, I didn’t know until today, or at least I think I did. You know that scene from Army of the Dead when the camera whirls around the members of Ward’s team, in the manner of the Avengers from the first Avengers, and they bravely shoot in all directions? When the camera reaches Dieter, he is holding a baseball bat nailed in his hands. This isn’t some new patent, of course, as such a weapon has already been used to demolish his apartment by the likes of Peter Weller in Unknown origin, chasing a giant rat, but it finally dawned on me what kind of sharp sticks Hudson might have been winding up with. Thank you Zack.


Ward’s team enters a room where zombies remain in lethargy, you can’t nudge them not to wake them up, and you can’t make any noise. One of them, as a result of fake Vasquez (look at me, I have a red armband, I’m Vasquez from Aliens!) falling into a trap set by fake Burke, wakes up, but quickly gets a right uppercut, a knife. Unfortunately, the increasing noise, even though the knife was with a silencer, causes more zombies to interrupt their post-morning lounging, and Maria “Vasquez” Cruz is forced to start chopping with a machine gun.

The scene is vividly reminiscent of the first clash between the Space Marines and the aliens, when the dormant creatures wake up one by one, after the soldiers make noise talking to the lady from Pleeeasee kiiilll mee. What’s more, in both cases Vasquez and the fake Vasquez from Snyder’s movie are the first to open fire. In Aliens, Gorman additionally shouts into the earpiece Who’s firing god damn it!!!, while Ward from Army of the Dead has a look on his face as if he’s about to cough through his teeth the exact same question. Ending the plot of the Vasquez clone, like her original, she dies surrounded by monsters, taking them with her to the end of the rainbow in a great explosion, by no means a joy.


In Aliens, monsters pour into a room through a broken ceiling. Similarly, as through an elevator shaft, zombies fall wholesale into a Las Vegas box office room. During the final exchange of fire with the monsters, although they don’t actually have anything to exchange, we already see the regular firing of automatic weapons into the cannon flesh lurching from everywhere. Remember Hicks and his tumbling backwards, with simultaneous firing at the alien, and flipping it behind him? Ward does exactly the same thing; as he lies on the floor, and the zombified man leaping over him in slow motion gets a round from a rifle, and lands dead behind Ward. How many time has Zack Snyder watched Aliens? It’s copy after copy, idea after idea pulled from Cameron, rearranged and changed.


Remember when Alien Queen got pissed off when Ripley fried her eggs and had her asshole riddled with a grenade launcher? I guess anyone would get a little upset, but that’s not the point. The reason why the alien queen set off in pursuit of Ripley and Newt so fiercely (well, not for the money, after all) was to kill her unborn kids. And when did the zombie king get into action (read human hunting), in full agitation? It occurred the moment he realized that his zombie child had been killed by decapitating his mother, by a human just. It is then that this Zombie in an iron mask, and his horde of gritty living dead, get into the action in earnest. What else do Alien Queen and Zombie King have in common? They can both operate an elevator, aboard which they continue their pursuit of humans. And what makes them different? Zombie King rides a horse, while Alien Queen rides… nothing.


Ripley distrusts Bishop from the beginning to almost the very end. Not surprisingly, after all, after the trauma of dealing with the perpetually slimy monster, Ellen also can’t forget how the former android offered her a newspaper reading, forcing the unwanted press right into the woman’s mouth. So when Ripley and Newt walk out to the platform where Bishop was supposed to be waiting for them in the second drop shuttle, and he wasn’t waiting, Ripley was sanctimoniously convinced that the android had wrapped up and flown to Sulaco. However, it turned out that he must have flown off somewhere off to the side, as the platform was reportedly becoming unstable. In fact, the exact same dramatic ploy was used by who? Yes, dear children, Zack Snyder! When Ward and his daughter run up to the roof, where Peters was supposed to be waiting for them in the helicopter, she doesn’t wait. But after a while she comes back, and explains that she selfishly ran away, but it turned out she had a conscience and came back – as for me, although it’s a rip-off of Cameron (again), acutely her explanation is cooler than Bishop’s  latform unstable…


One alien, and one zombie gets aboard the vehicle the heroes are fleeing in. The zombie makes a phenomenally filmed jump in slow-motion, while the Alien Queen latches onto the very unspectacular drop shuttle with her scrawny paws, which look like some bent steel crap. Here a point for Snyder, who made excellent use of his trademark slow-motion, hated by some viewers. The scene where the zombie king jumps into the helicopter is a real firecracker with capital camera work that made the movie for me. I went back and watched it probably seven times in a row. And I was reminded of the VHS days, when I would mangle my favorite action scenes over and over again with baked goods on my face, until the tape pulled into the head and the VCR burst into flames.


The events in both films, in addition to the zombie/alien threat, are accompanied by the relentless countdown of the doomsday clock. In Cameron’s case, it’s a damaged installation whose reactor exploding like an atomic bomb will destroy the base on the planet LV 246, while in Snyder’s it’s an atomic bomb that will wipe Las Vegas off the face of the Earth. However, while on the drop shuttle the heroes of Aliens felt only a specific shockwave, the helicopter in Army of the Dead is knocked down by the shockwave, and is completely destroyed. The main character Ward, or Ripley in pants, dies in the finale, infected by the monsters he was fighting. Ripley, too, ultimately dies in the finale of Alien^3, defeated by the monster she had been rocking with for three films, and whose new mother she ultimately carried in her own belly. However, while Ellen turned out to be a tragic figure, as she never got the chance to meet her own daughter, and Newt died upon landing on Fiorina 161, Ward experienced redemption before dying, as he managed to reconcile with his daughter.

Rafał Donica

Rafał Donica

Since watching "Blade Runner", he has been passionate about cinema, loves "Akira", "Drive", "Escape from New York", "North by Northwest", the underrated "The Hateful Eight" and "Terrifier 2". Author of the book "Frankenstein 100 years in cinema". Founder and editor-in-chief (in the years 1999 - 2012) of the Polish film portal FILM.ORG.PL. Since 2016, a professional reportage photographer.

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