If, like me, you thoroughly enjoyed Zack Snyder’s gory comic/horror zombie thriller Army of the Dead, you’ll be intrigued by Netflix’s prequel series, Army of Thieves, one of two upcoming Snyder projects set in the same fictional universe. Co-producer Deborah Snyder has said Army of Thieves will be a standalone film and compared the “romantic comedy heist” to 2003’s The Italian Job (itself a remake of the 1969 British film).
Army of the Dead followed Dave Bautista and his team of mercenaries as they ventured into zombie-infested Las Vegas to recover millions in cash from a casino vault. Naturally, brain-munching carnage ensued. As I wrote in my review, “While Snyder’s distinctive directorial style is plainly evident, he has reined in his worst impulses to give us a clever, entertaining twist on the zombie apocalypse, featuring all the flesh-eating carnage one expects from the genre.”
Bautista received top billing as Scott Ward, who brings the team together for the Vegas heist in hopes of having something to leave his estranged daughter, Kate (Ella Purnel). But the entire ensemble cast was terrific. In addition to Tig Notaro’s delightfully cynical pilot and Samantha Win’s martial arts fireworks, viewers loved the dynamic between zombie-killing-machine Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick) and the brilliantly nerdy, high-strung German safecracker Ludwig Dieter (Matthias Schweighöfer). Not only did the two forge a believable (albeit reluctant) bond, Dieter’s well-timed high-pitched screams whenever a zombie charged was one of several running gags. So naturally Dieter is getting his own prequel.
Army of Thieves was already in post-production when Army of the Dead debuted, having wrapped filming in Germany in December. Schweighöfer both stars and directs, and while the film is not a bona fide zombie film, it is set in the early stages of the zombie outbreak that makes up the opening backstory montage of Army of the Dead. The plot “takes place in a world where these zombies exist in America and it’s causing instability in the banking institutions,” Deborah Snyder told Indie Wire. “They’re moving money around, so it’s the perfect opportunity for a heist.” And, apparently, for romance. Zack Snyder has confirmed there will be zombies in the film, and we’ll also get more of Dieter’s backstory, particularly how he learned his safecracking trade.
In addition to Schweighöfer, Nathalie Emmanuel co-stars as Gwendoline, a mysterious woman who hires Dieter and his “misfit crew of aspiring thieves.” One assumes she is also a love interest, given the romantic comedy angle. Guz Khan plays Rolph, Ruby O. Fee plays Korina, and Stuart Martin plays Brad Cage. The cast also includes Jonathan Cohen, Noemie Nakai, Peter Simonischek, and John Bubniak.
Army of Thieves is scheduled for release in late 2021. Netflix reported that 72 million people watched its predecessor in the first four weeks after it premiered, and we can probably expect similar numbers for the prequel, particularly since Dieter was such a fan favorite.
Also in development is an anime-inspired prequel TV series, Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas, in which we will learn more about Scott’s origin story. Bautista, Purnell, Ana de la Reguera, Notaro, and Hardwick are all returning to voice their respective characters for the six-episode series. Additional voice casting includes Vanessa Hudgens, Joe Manganiello, Christian Slater, Yetide Badaki, Harry Lennix, Monica Barbaro, Anya Chalotra, Christina Wrent, and Nolan North.
Snyder seems to have forged a strong working relationship with Netflix. The director just announced yet another project with the streamer—an epic sci–fi fantasy called Rebel Moon—that the director hopes will launch another successful franchise. A decade ago, Snyder developed a Star Wars pitch that never went anywhere after Disney acquired LucasFilm in 2012. Snyder began reworking the concept as a side project over the last several years. Per the official premise: “When a peaceful colony on the edge of the galaxy finds itself threatened by the armies of the tyrannical Regent Balisarius, they dispatch a young woman with a mysterious past to seek out warriors from neighboring planets to help them take a stand.”
Listing image by Netflix