The ending of Zack Snyder’s epic zombie action film Army of the Dead features a nuclear bomb, hordes of the undead, a fight onboard a helicopter and the good kind of airline food. It also lays the groundwork for the franchise’s future, as one character carries the zombie infection out of Las Vegas and into the world at large.
Released on Netflix, Army of the Dead stars Dave Bautista as Scott Ward, a mercenary turned burger-flipper who is given the opportunity to escape his low-income job and be set for life. All he needs to do is sneak into the walled city of Las Vegas, fight his way past the thousands of zombies within, crack an unbreakable safe and escape via helicopter with a payload of $200 million before a nuclear bomb obliterates the city. What could possibly go wrong?
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Though Scott and the rest of his team manage to make it into the casino without too many problems, things soon start to go wrong after that. Bly Tanaka’s right-hand man Martin steals the head of the alpha zombie queen, infuriating her king, and the president moves up the nuclear bombing so that the team is left with only 90 minutes to get the cash, get to the chopper, and get out. Here’s a breakdown of Army of the Dead‘s ending, and what it could mean for future zombie stories set in the same universe.
What Bly Really Wanted From Las Vegas
It’s hinted from early on in Army of the Dead that Bly Tanaka’s story about wanting to recover the cash from his casino isn’t entirely true. When Scott calls Tanaka to accept the job, there are two men in military uniform and another wearing a suit and what looks like a government ID badge at Tanaka’s home. They’re obviously not there to ensure that a casino owner is successful in retrieving a pile of cash. The bad signs continue when Tanaka insists on sending his own man, Martin, along with the rest of the heist team, and Martin sabotages Chambers into getting killed by zombies when she expresses suspicion towards him. Then there are the bodies of previous teams who tried and failed on the same mission, littered around the casino. A man as wealthy as Tanaka wouldn’t be trying this hard just for the chance to possibly recover $200 million that he’s already been reimbursed for anyway, so he must have another agenda.
Indeed, Tanaka’s real target is the zombies themselves. The brains of one of the alpha zombies are hugely valuable to governments and private contractors who want to weaponize the zombie virus and create their own army of super-strong, undead soldiers. Martin made a deal with the coyote, Lily, to secretly aid him while the rest of the team focused on the casino heist. Though he told her he only needed a vial of blood, he instead takes the alpha zombie queen’s entire head, preserving it so that it’s still alive despite being detached from her body. Martin can’t simply take the head of a dead zombie, because the sparkling blue substance inside their bodies that’s the key to their powers dissipates when they die – as seen when the king of the alpha zombies, Zeus, cradles the dying body of the fetus that was growing inside his queen.
Which Characters Survived the Las Vegas Heist?
Army of the Dead has a high body count, with only two members of the heist crew confirmed to have survived by the end. Technically there are five characters in total who make it out of Las Vegas alive, but three of them don’t live for very long afterwards. Helicopter pilot Marianne Peters and Kate’s friend, Geeta, are killed when the helicopter crashes in the Nevada desert. Both Scott and Kate are thrown clear of the helicopter, but Scott was bitten by Zeus and begins transforming into a zombie, forcing Kate to shoot him in the head in order to stop him. It’s a tragic callback to the flashback at the start of the movie, in which Scott was forced to kill Kate’s mother in order to protect his daughter.
Between heist team members getting picked off by the zombies and the survivors being forced to drop their bags of cash in order to move faster, not much money survives the nuking of Las Vegas either. Scott manages to stash enough money to give Kate a future and help Geeta’s kids get out of the camp, but it’s only Vanderohe who gets out of Vegas with a worthy payout. Having been protected from the nuclear blast by being locked in the bank vault, he escapes with three full bags of cash – more than enough money to start a new life in Mexico. However, he soon realizes that he’ll be starting a new life in more ways than one.
Is Dieter Alive?
Since most of the characters who are killed off in Army of the Dead have their deaths shown in explicit, gory detail, the fact that safe-cracker Ludwig Dieter is not actually shown dying or even being bitten is significant. Dieter is last seen as he shuts the vault door on Vanderohe while being dragged away by Zeus, but although being attacked by an alpha zombie shortly before the city gets hit with a nuclear bomb isn’t exactly a safe situation, Dieter may well have survived. Upoming prequel movie Army of Thieves is focused on Dieter and his life before the heist, so the odds are good that that he’ll also be brought back for an Army of the Dead sequel. If Dieter managed to escape Zeus, then he would probably have had enough time to sprint through Las Vegas and get clear of the city before the nuclear bomb hit. After all, for someone who’s an expert in opening safes rather than killing zombies, Dieter is a very good shot with a gun.
What Kind Of Zombie Is Vanderohe Becoming?
Though at first it seems like Vanderohe has made it out of Las Vegas free and clear, while on the plane his temperature begins to drop (the first sign of zombie infection) and he staggers to the bathroom feeling ill. It’s revealed that he has a festering zombie bite wound on his arm from his fight with Zeus in the casino’s basement, and while he hasn’t yet fully turned by the end of Army of the Dead, he certainly seems to be heading for a transformation. What’s interesting, though, is that this is the first time that the zombie bite has been shown to take so long to turn someone. The soldiers at the start of the movie turned almost instantly after being bitten, and Scott died from his bite wound and began to turn in a matter of minutes. Vanderohe, however, doesn’t start to succumb to his bite wound until hours after he was locked in the bank vault.
It’s possible that, with Zeus dead, Vanderohe is becoming the new king alpha zombie, and will build his own new zombie kingdom after he arrives at his destination in Mexico City. Given that he was at ground zero of a nuclear bombing after being bitten, it’s also possible that the residual radiation interacted with the zombie virus coursing through him, and Vanderohe could become an entirely new type of zombie. Or perhaps the interaction of the radiation will suppress the zombie virus, allowing him to gain superhuman strength, speed and durability without becoming one of the undead. With Army of the Dead‘s ending leaving Vanderohe’s fate uncertain, a sequel could take him in any number of different directions.
How Army of the Dead’s Ending Sets Up The Sequel & Prequels
Army of the Dead is the first part of a planned zombie universe on Netflix, and is already set to continue with a prequel anime-style series called Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas and the aforementioned prequel movie Army of Thieves. Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas is set in the early days of the zombie outbreak, with several actors from the movie reprising their roles among the voice cast. It will feature the efforts by Scott and other characters to evacuate as many people as possible from Las Vegas, while also introducing other characters who are trying to survive the outbreak and make it out of the city. Army of the Dead offers an intriguing look at the life of Zeus and his zombie queen, especially with the stunning revelation that zombies can get pregnant, but leaves enough mystery that Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas could fully explore how the zombie society in Las Vegas was first established.
Zack Snyder has said that he already has a clear idea of what Army of the Dead 2 would be about, and Army of the Dead‘s ending seems to clearly set up a sequel where Vanderohe spreads the zombie virus after landing in Mexico City. The next time around, the zombie plague may not be so easy to contain simply by putting up walls, especially since the U.S. military has no advance warning that a zombie is on the loose this time around. Army of the Dead 2 could feature a war for dominance between humans and zombies, to decide which species will ultimately rule the planet.
What Vanderohe’s Joseph Campbell Quote Means
Shortly before he staggers to the bathroom on the plane Vanderohe shares a toast with the air hostesses in which he shares a quote from literature professor Joseph Campbell: “It is by going down into the abyss where we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.” Campbell is best known for his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which he explained the storytelling monomyth known as the “hero’s journey.” The Campbell quote is a very tongue-in-cheek reference, since a great number of Hollywood movies – including Army of the Dead – use the framework of the hero’s journey. As described by Campbell in The Hero With a Thousand Faces, the basic structure of the story is:
“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”
In Army of the Dead, the role of the hero shifts between the beginning and the end of the movie. It’s Scott who initially receives the call to adventure, but at the end of the movie it’s Vanderohe and Kate who return with “the power to bestow boons” (in Kate’s case, the money for Geeta’s children, and in Vanderohe’s case the rather dubious boon of his zombie infection).
Rather than simply being an entertaining structure for a story, the monomyth of the hero’s journey is considered to be an expression of truths about human life and experience. Campbell noted that many stories from across many different cultures are about a hero facing their fears and descending into the abyss, only to find that in the abyss “there lies your treasure.” Army of the Dead has a rather literal interpretation of this, with Vanderohe “going down into the abyss” (the casino’s basement-level safe) and recovering “the treasures of life.” The treasure Vanderohe thinks he’s found is the money, but the real treasure he brought back is something far more sinister.
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