Army of the Dead may not be a direct sequel to Zack Snyder’s 2004 movie Dawn of the Dead, but an Easter egg suggests they share the same universe.
Army of the Dead may not be a direct sequel to Zack Snyder’s 2004 movie Dawn of the Dead, but an Easter egg suggests that they exist in the same universe. Snyder first came up with the story for Army of the Dead, which follows a crew of mercenaries on a daring heist into zombie-ridden Las Vegas, shortly after the release of Dawn. However, it wasn’t until Netflix picked up Army of the Dead in 2019 that production finally got underway.
Snyder has said that Army of the Dead is not a Dawn of the Dead sequel, and at first glance the movie gives no indication that there have been any mass zombie outbreaks prior to the one in Las Vegas. Upon closer inspection, however, it’s revealed that this is not the first time zombies have appeared in the Army of the Dead universe.
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While helicopter pilot Marianne Peters (Tig Notaro) is reading the latest news on her phone, directly below a story about plans to nuke Las Vegas is a headline that reads “New Information Released About ’04 Zombie Outbreak In Milwaukee.” Dawn of the Dead was primarily set in a shopping mall in Milwaukee, which a group of survivors use as a safe haven in the wake of a zombie outbreak, and the movie was released in 2004. The survivors are stuck in the mall for most of the movie, and most of the news reports of the zombie attacks (before the TVs cut out) are local, so it’s certainly possible that the outbreak was isolated to Milwaukee. Perhaps the government even established a perimeter similar to the one that surrounds Las Vegas in Army of the Dead.
While this could just be a fun throwaway Easter egg, Army of the Dead being set in the same universe as Dawn of the Dead does make sense. For starters, both movies feature incredibly fast and agile zombies that are distinct from the standard depictions of the undead as slow and shambling. There are some differences in the lore; in Army of the Dead, people have to be personally bitten by Zeus (Richard Cetrone) in order to become “alpha” zombies rather than brainless shamblers, whereas in Dawn of the Dead all of the zombies were fast-moving. Still, there could well be an explanation for why all of the zombies in the Milwaukee outbreak became alphas instead of shamblers.
Speed isn’t the only thing that Snyder’s two zombie movies have in common. Both Army of the Dead and Dawn of the Dead deal with the concept of zombie pregnancy. In the 2004 movie, Luda (Inna Korobkina) is bitten while heavily pregnant and dies during labor, rising from the dead for just long enough to give birth to a zombie baby. In Army of the Dead, the zombie queen of Las Vegas (Athena Perample) manages to conceive a pure alpha zombie child with Zeus, but the fetus dies after her head is cut off her body.
The lore established in Dawn of the Dead also sheds interesting light on the zombie animals in Army of the Dead: Zeus’s horse, and his loyal zombie tiger Valentine. In Dawn of the Dead, the zombies weren’t interested at all in Chips the dog, who was able to run freely through a huge crowd of them. This would explain why there aren’t more zombie animals in Army of the Dead; the zombies don’t attack animals indiscriminately, but Zeus chose to recruit Valentine and the horse in the same way he recruited his army of alpha zombies.
In short, there’s little to contradict the idea that Dawn of the Dead and Army of the Dead could be set in the same universe, and a number of similarities between the two movies that support it. If the news report on Peters’ phone is more than just an Easter egg, perhaps the surviving characters from Dawn of the Dead could even return in Army of the Dead 2.
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