Spoilers follow for Army of the Dead.
Army of the Dead has landed on Netflix, and we imagine you’ll have questions about Zack Snyder’s zombie-heist movie if you’ve watched it.
While the director’s latest film is a self-contained story, there are still some loose plot threads left hanging by the end of the movie.
Our Army of the Dead ending explained article is here to answer any queries you may have. We dive into some of the movie’s biggest talking points, including comments from Snyder and the cast on its finale, a potential sequel, and how Army of the Dead’s prequel projects may be affected by it.
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One final warning before we begin: huge spoilers for Army of the Dead follow, including character deaths and whether discussions have even taken place about Army of the Dead 2 yet. So turn back now if you haven’t watched or finished the movie.
Army of the Dead ending explained: Bly Tanaka’s real plan revealed
Before we dive into how Army of the Dead’s ending might set up a sequel, let’s recount the events that lead up to, and include, its finale.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada) isn’t interested in reclaiming the $200 million he has squirreled away in his Las Vegas casino vault. Instead, he wants to help the US Government obtain a zombie sample so that they can control their own army of zombies – the “ultimate biological weapon” as Tanaka’s head of security Martin (Garret Dillahunt) tells Lily (Nora Arnezeder).
Lily was supposed to help Martin obtain a zombie blood sample, and provided the pair were successful, the US Government would release the remaining refugees from the Las Vegas immigration camp at Lily’s request.
With this new blood sample, the US Government could experiment with its zombie army plans further. We say ‘further’ because it had previously conducted tests with zombie soldiers in the form of Zeus (Richard Cetrone). In the movie’s opening scenes, Zeus was being transported from Area 51 to an undisclosed location by the US Army. However, following a road accident, he escapes from his prison, kills his army escorts, causes the Las Vegas zombie outbreak, and becomes king of the undead hordes.
Instead of acquiring this sample, Martin decapitates Zeus’ zombie queen (Athena Perample) after he and Lily capture it, and decides to bring its head back to Tanaka and the US Government instead. When Zeus finds out that his wife has been killed, he furiously leads his forces against Martin and company in search of revenge.
Army of the Dead ending explained: what’s with the zombie baby?
Before Zeus does that, however, a surprise revelation is made: he was going to be a father.
After Zeus carries the corpse of his bride into Olympus Tower (the zombies’ headquarters), he lays her on the floor and rips her stomach open. He pulls something out of her, and it’s revealed to be a stillborn zombie fetus.
While this is part of Snyder’s reinvention of zombies, in part to make audiences sympathize with them, the director also told us that the zombie baby was included as a plot device that, ultimately, would give Zeus a reason to lead to his full-scale assault on Scott Ward (Dave Baustista) and his fellow mercenaries.
Speaking to TechRadar at the movie’s pre-release press junket, Snyder explained: “As far as the zombie baby goes, I wanted audiences to feel like that was the last straw [for Zeus]. I wanted audiences to think ‘you’re in trouble now’ regarding Scott and the others.”
In trouble they certainly are. Chambers (Samantha Win) and slimy security guard Burt (Theo Rossi) aside, almost everyone else dies as a result of Martin’s actions in the explosive battle that follows.
By the time the battle is over, only Scott, his daughter Kate (Ella Purnell) and helicopter pilot Marianne Peters (Tig Notaro) remain. That is until Zeus tracks them down and, in the ensuing fight inside their getaway helicopter, Peters is accidentally shot and Scott gets bitten.
Scott eventually kills Zeus by shooting him in the head. However, as a result of the nuclear strike’s atomic explosion, the helicopter crashes, killing Peters and separating Kate and Scott.
The duo reunite, but a severely injured Scott is at death’s door. Remembering the money he scooped up before Zeus’ attack, Scott gives it to Kate so she can start a new life. The pair tearfully say goodbye before Scott dies and becomes a zombie. A distraught Kate shoots him in the head before she boards a rescue helicopter, which was presumably sent by Tanaka or the US Army to locate any survivors.
Army of the Dead ending explained: how Vanderohe could set up Army of the Dead 2
Kate, though, isn’t the sole human survivor, with the next scene revealing that Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick) survived the nuclear blast. Locked inside the casino vault by Ludwig Dieter (Matthias Schweighöfer) as Zeus attacked, Vanderohe emerges from the rubble, following the nuclear strike, with two bags full of cash.
He travels to Utah, and bribes an air stewardess to let him rent a private jet bound for Mexico City. However, on the plane he starts to feel dizzy, and heads to the bathroom to clear his head.
Vanderohe realizes that he was bitten by Zeus during the pair’s confrontation. As the jet’s pilot tells him to return to his seat before they depart, Vanderohe laughs at the irony of his situation: he’s the new ‘patient zero’, and seems set to cause a new zombie outbreak in Mexico’s capital city.
This scene in particular, then, appears to set up a sequel. Netflix is yet to reveal any plans for Army of the Dead 2, but, talking to TechRadar, Hardwick refused to completely rule out that possibility.
“I can’t disclose that [the possibilities for a sequel], but I think everyone would be excited as I would if there was an opportunity,” he said. “If it does happen, you could get to see my character get down in a new way. But I can’t necessarily speak about the way it looks, or the form or fashion you’ll see Vanderohe in the future.”
Army of the Dead ending explained: is Dieter dead?
As for Dieter, it’s unclear if he’s alive at the end of the film. During Zeus’ punch-up with Vanderohe, the alpha zombie is clearly on top, and looks to be on the verge of killing the former zombie-stomping war hero.
Dieter, though, attacks Zeus to save his newfound friend. He pushes Vanderohe into the vault and closes the door to sacrifice himself. The last we see of Dieter is when Zeus grabs him, which implies that Dieter is killed by the zombie king moments later.
However, we don’t actually see Dieter die. There are only two suggested character deaths – those of Dieter and Lily – that we don’t witness, but given that Lily is impaled on a shipping container by Zeus’ spear during the helicopter escape sequence, we can safely assume that Zeus kills her before tackling Scott, Kate and Peters.
Dieter’s case is different. We see Zeus pull him away from the vault door, but nothing after that. It’s almost certain that Zeus kills Dieter, and that Snyder spared us having to watch our favorite German safecracker die on screen – and if Zeus didn’t kill him, it’s also very likely that Dieter died during the nuclear explosion later on.
But what if he didn’t? What if, somehow, he survived both Zeus’ attack and the nuclear strike?
We already know that Schweighöfer will star in and direct Netflix’s upcoming Army of the Dead prequel movie, Army of Thieves, which will explore Dieter’s backstory. Apart from a brief movie synopsis, though, we don’t know anything about the film, so it could have a flash-forward moment that reveals whether he lives or dies in Army of the Dead, too.
We’re sure that viewers will want to know if the movie’s breakout star survived the ordeal. Schweighöfer recently confirmed (opens in new tab) (per The Mary Sue) that Army of Thieves was only conceived once Army of the Dead was completed.
With that being the case, Schweighöfer and Snyder could have discussed Dieter’s fate in Army of the Dead. If they agree that he escaped Zeus’ grasp and survived the nuclear explosion, we could get a scene in Army of Thieves that confirms this.
We’re holding out hope, then, that there might be an Army of Thieves scene that shows whether Dieter survived or not. Schweighöfer declined to comment on his character’s sacrifice, or if Dieter’s fate will be revealed in Army of Thieves, when we quizzed him on it, so we’ll have to wait and see if he did.
Army of the Dead is available to stream exclusively on Netflix now.