Spoilers will take a crack at it.
So, a prequel to Army of the Dead because reasons. Actually, this sounds like a bit of a forced deal, but strangely enough, it is sliver marginally more entertaining than the vehicle it spins off from, although both kinda end up in the ditch. At least this one doesn’t think itself clever, and some of the premise does contain some entertainment, despite being a little clunky and forced in its execution. It does give you some memorable characters and a serviceable plot, but it messes up the landing.
Army of the Dead (2021) was directed by Matthias Schweighöfer based on a screenplay by Shay Hatten. Ludwig Dieter, the character from the first movie (created by Zack Snyder), whose name here is Sebastian Schlencht-Wöhnert (Matthias Schweighöfer) because of reasons the movie will make you know later, is a bank teller by trade. What he really loves doing in his spare time is honing in his skills as an amateur safecracker. He is, however completely naive about the obvious criminal application of his skills, demonstrated by trying to make himself known through a YouTube channel with zero followers and no views. That changes the day he gets a message asking if he wants to put his skills to the test from a mysterious stranger.
Enter Gwendoline Starr (Nathalie Emmanuel), jewel thief and member of a small cadre of thieves that includes hacker Korina (Ruby O. Fee), muscle Brad Cage (Stuart Martin) and getaway driver Rolph (Guz Khan). What they are after is a trio of almost-mythical safes made by legendary locksmith Hans Wagner inspired by composer Richard Wagner’s four-opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen. The three known safes are the Rheingold, the Valkyrie and the Sigfried, all belonging to millionaire Bly Tanaka (from the first film). The fourth one, the Götterdämmerung is the safe that appears in the Army of the Dead (2021).
As an exercise in world-building, I like the whole Wagner mythos of the safes being explored although I think they could have actually saved (pun intended) two of them for more movies if they intend to make a franchise of it. I also liked the character building for Sebastian/Dieter. The rest of the gang is colorful, albeit it seemed they could’ve done a little more with them. I also like the sets for each bank and the vault design. Matthias Schweighöfer does a decent performance in his role as the meek, mild and nervous Sebastian. I felt Ruby O. Fee’s character of Korina actually had more charisma than Nathalie Emmanuel’s Gwendoline but that’s just me picking at straws. That’s because this is as far as good things go.
Unfortunately, we have to get to the disappointments. The execution of each premise is stunted. Yes, they had potential but they are poorly done. I did care about these characters, and was willing to have fun. Having each of them end their arc and fade away without a satisfying resolution is a rather shallow payoff. Did Matthias Schweighöfer actually did Army of the Dead just to be able to direct and star in this film? Was that the deal with Snyder? Funny how the spinoff is marginally better.
And then there’s the annoying things. The character of the over-the-top always-raging Interpol agent Delacroix (Jonathan Cohen) was just exhausting. A guard that keeps watch outside the establishment but has the key you need to into the elevator? Your bank has two armed guards watching the cameras but none in the same room as the customers? Gwendolyn takes down two armed guards without firing a single shot? Why was the second vault more challenging than the last one? And that finale was just nonsense. None of those characters behaved like they were written.
Not recommended unless the only other option is the sequel and then this will look a lot better. It’s just a step above to be called lightly serviceable and barely entertaining, but it just fails to nail the landing in about every scenario it starts. It’s a pity because some of the characters felt engaging enough. Some slight changes and more organic transitions would have done wonders rather than forcing outcomes. I can’t quite decide if its the directing, the screenplay, the editing or all three, but the result is lacklustre. Only worth a watch if you need something playing in the background. Or if there’s nothing else to do during your flight.
That will do for now.