Rating: 1 out of 5
Francois Truffaut may have tapped into something essential about our relationship with war films when he claimed there was no such thing as an anti-war film. His logic being that there is some amount of glorification in displaying violence on screen and seeing these impossibly beautiful actors in military garb. While there are certainly exceptions to this rule, despite the fact “war is hell” these moments in history are more often that not rendered as entertaining. So if war is hell and war films exciting, what can be gained from adding zombies to the mix? Answer: not much. With Overlord Julius Avery has essentially adapted Call of Duty: Nazi Zombies, for the big screen. On paper, that actually sounds like a blast, perfect for B-movie fodder. Instead we get a dull, cheap, thrill ride that bores more than it frights, a B-picture with an A-budget.
Here is a film that could’ve been made easily with a 90 minute runtime, two or three modest locations, half the ridiculous special effects and over the top gun fights. A movie that costed 38 million dollars to make that could’ve been made on a quarter of that budget with a better filmmaker at the helm. This movie plays for keeps, when the stakes are low. The film goes to great lengths to show how hard war is before introducing the zombies, but that seems to disable any fun we (or the cast) are allowed to have with the material. During WWII Nazis did in fact experiment on people both in the sciences and the dark arts, intriguing right? The filmmakers don’t seem to think so, blatantly avoiding the most interesting part of their film for an entire hour. The pacing is truly awful, the moments of slowness and talking aren’t engaging enough to hold one’s interest and the set-pieces so rushed and trite that explosions and gunshots somehow become bland. The screenwriters attempted to leave a trail of breadcrumbs leading to the “zombie mystery” but all of us knew it was a movie about nazi zombies before entering the theater, so when it takes an hour to get to the part that everyone showed up for, it’s difficult for all players in the film to regain our attention.
Try they do, however, there’s a tacked on love interest, heroic speeches, sneaking behind enemy lines, a Christoph Waltz circa Inglorious Bastards wanna be and even a torture scene for good measure. Much like the Nazis in this film the screenwriters do everything they can to keep us away from the core of their project, zombies. They drown viewers in needless side characters and tangents, diluting any urgency or quickness the film has going on. The actors seem just as confused by the material as the audience. The protagonist Boyce played by Jovan Adepo swings for the fences, he clearly read this as a melodramatic war drama. On the other hand the hard ass Lieutenant Ford played by Wyatt Russell lays on a thick dollop of schlock and hovers right above Christian Bale’s Batman voice. Down to the acting the film is being pulled in two different directions and neither is particularly inspired.
This film should’ve been fun. Slight congratulations to everyone involved for somehow figuring out how to make this story boring. It’s legitimately impressive! Here is a movie that is ignorant to its own nature and appeal, who has no idea what it is or wants to be. There are moments of tension splattered in this mess, but the film is too distracted to even be conscious of when it’s working. This film is scared to have fun, when we should’ve been the ones having fun being scared.