Oh, what a promise… a mix of Indiana Jones, Mars Attacks and Jason & the Argonauts. And what a premise… a group of archeology students on a dig in Mexico suddenly find themselves battling a militia of skeleton warriors, cursed to protect the legendary lost city of gold, El Dorado.
Now, anyone who has seen Ray Harryhausen’s beloved Jason & the Argonauts (1963) will know that any film that tries to compete against that film’s famed 4-minute skeleton fighting scenes has an hard act to follow. That’s why Sam Raimi had his tongue firmly planted in his cheek when his Evil Dead hero Ash took on the medieval dead in 1993’s Army of Darkness.
Given the progresses made in the field of special effects since the 1990s, you’d think Army of the Dead is just the film to give Harryhausen a run for his money. Well, he needn’t worry about losing his crown to this B-movie nonsense. Sure, the CGI effects are carefully planned out, and some look quite good, but they are so cartoon-like I thought I was watching an episode of Scooby Doo. And don’t get me started on the woeful acting, the slow pacing and the cardboard script.
While Disney’s 1929 Silly Symphonies short, A Skeleton Dance, has more chills than this disappointing fare, Army of the Dead does however have a certain cheesy charm that makes for ideal viewing on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Just don’t expect much meat from them bones.