Stop the unstoppable
Do you smell it? The smell of Nazi-beating, zombie blasting, tried and true old red white and blue dropping freedom onto the screen? Tonight I’m giving myself a break - you’d never know it with all the horror movies I’ve done recently, but it’s not actually my favorite genre of films. That said, we will still drop a little horror into our action entree - just to spice things up a little bit, you know? They had me at Nazi zombies, can they possibly serve up more than I want? Let’s talk Overlord.
The plot didn’t need much more than what it pitched - give me zombies, give me some evil Nazi scientists, and throw me in all the fun bonuses I’d expect from a movie set in World War II. Honestly, the plot really is about as simple as it’s pitch too, but perhaps that could be a good thing given if you think to much about it the concept could get pretty silly quick. That’s not just to shrug things off though - they do actually throw a line in here and there about why and how this whole super zombie soldier thing is going down, which is probably more than they need to. Mind you, like a smart kid at the front of class, they don’t go into so much detail that you zone out and start picking out everything wrong they say just out of spite - no, it’s pretty much literally a few lines in there, half evil-guy taunt delivery and small portions of show-don’t tell. For an action flick, it’s perfect. For a horror flick, it’s enough.
Part of the plot throws itself over onto a few of the characters, trying to give them moments to progress - if not as soldiers, as people. We see some who were total butt holes become less butt holes. We see some that were unable to kill small animals deliver the lead when needed. It’s very much war story in that way - each character has an archetype, some live long enough to advance or change that slightly. Some don’t. A lot don’t - granted, that’s mostly whittled down by the opening scene. We even get the feisty boss of a lady whose had enough of these Nazi jerks taking her share of action, and they use her as more than just a damsel in distress across the movie after she gets introduced. Yes, it might not really knock heavy on the doors of development or doing new things with characters, but there is enough there that you can enjoy people when they are on screen - or hate them, as most any movie containing a Nazi wants you to do when they put them on screen.
Actors do a good job here, even if their roles might be a bit cliche at times. Our lead does a remarkable job emoting with his facial features alone, even before you take into account the fact that the rest of his acting is pretty dang good as well. If a weakest link existed, it would probably be the kid - as they somewhat tend to be a lot of times - but that’s hardly on account of the kid’s acting as much as just the character itself I think. The little bugger does have a few moments where the reaction is so good that you laugh a bit. All of that being said, a lot of the acting is still within the type of the characters, so when the final boss starts acting all monologue and mustache-twirls over the top, don’t be too surprised by it - just embrace it and run with it. The same could probably be said of the overall presentation of the German forces here - this is movie style super-Nazis, where rape and burning people is more of a conversational joke than their more real-life counterparts. Hey, look at me quick - you are watching a movie with Nazi-made zombies in it - if you are looking for authenticity here you are way in the wrong place to begin with.
Costumes are fun, although perhaps not anything outside what you would normally really see in a WWII flick. I enjoy it, it’s a nice change of pace from ever day attire, but understand that the clothing options for those who have been binge-watching the period movies are gonna be far less impressed with things. Of course, costumes are but a part of what’s here - you also get the props and effects. The props look good, helping set a few of the characters apart from each other and giving them something to solo out their identity with - be it a camera, or a mean looking knife with some knuckle dusters on it. Beyond that we get into the general set decorations - which sometimes can set up some really nice shots. A scene earlier in the movie with a nice smokey orange lighting in the woods has plenty of paratroopers stuck in trees, evoking a sort of hellscape as I’m sure was intended - but it’s also just a lovely put together shot. Likewise everything largely looks exactly like it either should, or you feel like it should. Underground labs with dated yet science fiction lab tools and tech, the busted up village and landscape would seem right in place in something like Saving Private Ryan, and of course the chaotic plane opening.
The other side of that is all the flashier effects. Violence is abound in this one, from mutated people to gun hits all the way up to those wonderfully bumped up explosions. The final act particularly brings all these things to a crescendo, serving as a nice bookend to the opening chaos to bring us full circle. The middle section is where thing get a bit more horror, and we find less of the big stuff - gun battles, explosions - and more of the dressing type elements like mutations and other “gross” things like talking heads and otherwise just ripped up looking meaty things. It’s probably a mix of practical and CG stuff in here - at no point was I ever pulled out of the movie, but there’s definitely some stuff in here that feels far more CG than it perhaps should - but at the same time, had they pushed it a little bit further it would almost feel like it hit that grind house level. The violence is there, but outside of a few occasions it’s usually not too overly gory in the sense of say a zombie movie - more akin to a mild war flick. We might see a leg or arm laying about after an explosion, but largely there isn’t a ton of detail to it - until there is. When there is, let me tell you, you start getting bones and blood and holes and shattered teeth - but again, the more extreme things get the more it tends to feel a bit CG over practical, whether it is or not. This largely isn’t bad and I’d say the average person wouldn’t even bat an eye at it, but there was a few moments particularly dealing with a zombo’s face towards the end where it did look a bit off putting to me, but it didn’t bother me in the sense that I was up in arms - just the casual mental note of something I perhaps should mention later.
So really, all the elements that you want to be there are there. I mean, there obviously has to be downsides to the movie, or else this thing would be straight up ten out of ten perfect, right? I mean, honestly, I don’t have much to complain about here because it gave me exactly what I wanted - down to someone banging out a clip on a Garand with that ever so satisfying ping. I already mentioned the bit about the plot not being super elaborate, and I do guess that it could bother some people just like historical inaccuracies (even though I feel it’s laughable to be upset by that in a movie with stinking zombie creatures in it). The pacing does a well enough job mixing in elements of surprise or tension despite the scenes playing out more horror or action, so that even the slower discovery moments aren’t completely blotted out with boredom. That said, I can see where the combination could leave some unsatisfied - not scary enough, or not enough action so to speak. Of course, the violent effects that I enjoy so much might also be a bit off putting to some, but when it’s rated R for violence it seems silly to be upset with it having violence in there.
Overlord was fun. Like, a lot of fun. Yes, it is true that my expectations weren’t really all that high, and perhaps I’d be more excited if it was some cheesy full on war against Nazi super-soldier zombies - but what’s here is perfectly fine all considering. It blends the two nicely, delivering some nice camera shots and provides enough of the elements to provide that hook even if it doesn’t come out on top as the best ever in each of those fields. It looks good, sounds good, has some good acting, and falls just short in giving you the satisfaction of punching Hitler in the jaw. Although I don’t necessarily feel a second viewing will merit any extra enjoyment over the first as some movies will, I may actually end up picking this one up for future watching some day - perhaps if I find it on sale or something.