Okay, I’ll admit it. I’ve been hyped for this movie for quite some time. Ever since Overlord was first rumored to be part of the Cloverfield universe earlier in the year, my calendar had been marked for the day of it’s big release. Those rumors did eventually turn out to be false (although J.J. Abram and the boys over at Bad Robot still had a hand in making this film) but that didn’t make me any less excited for a movie that promised a raunchy gore-fest through a zombie-infested World War 2. But did it live up to the hype?
Well…yes and no.
Part of the problem is that I got caught up in the hype for this movie and imagined it as something that it never really set out to be. I come from a Call of Duty background in which I played the Zombies mode religiously, and I thought that this movie was going to be all about four World War II guys mowing down hordes of the Nazi undead while Metallica or Avenged Sevenfold played in the background and reminded me to eat more Doritos.
So if it isn’t that, what exactly is Overlord?
Overlord follows the adventures of a small group of soldiers sent into France the night before D-Day who are instructed to take out a German communications tower in a small French village in order to ensure that D-Day goes according to plan. It could all be a pretty straightforward war-flick if not for one little problem: the Germans have a secret lab under that tower, and they’ve been up to some really weird stuff, as Nazi scientists are wont to do.
A war movie is only as good as it’s soldiers though, and Overlord has a pretty likable group of guys for the most part. The main character Boyce isn’t quite a pacifist but he is someone uncomfortable with killing and is played pretty well by Jovan Adepo. You really believe that this is a guy in completely over his head who really wants no part of this madness, and he makes for a compelling (if subdued) protagonist from start to finish. Wyatt Russell plays Ford, who serves as the film’s gruff superior officer willing to let anyone die as long as the objective is completed. There’s a little more character to him than that, but not a lot more. I was pretty ecstatic to see Ian De Caestecker in this movie, because his role as Fitz on Agents of Shield is one of the most endearing characters on television, and the same thing pretty much goes for Overlord. He’s definitely the most likable soldier of the bunch, but is most certainly not the guy leading the charge into battle. John Magaro plays Tibbet, the wise-cracking asshole that’s secretly a big softy. It is interesting to note that I was actively cheering for him to be among the first to die, but came around to him more as the film went on. The only representation of the fairer gender comes from the French villager Chloe played by Mathilde Ollivier. Chloe reminded me a lot of Shoshanna from Inglorious Basterds, and it’s not surprising since the two had somewhat similar backstories. Speaking of Inglorious Basterds, it’s hard not to imagine Pilou Asbaek as anybody other than Hans Landa on steroids. He takes a bit too much delight in terrorizing the French villagers as the film’s villain and is a menacing presence for most of the movie, though obviously never hits the heights that won Christoph Waltz an Academy Award.
But what about the zombies? That’s what we’re all here for, right? I hate to be that guy but there really aren’t a lot of zombies in this movie. You can probably count them all on one hand, which may be as disappointing for you as it was for me. There are a lot of really creepy scenes involving body-horror that will likely be seared into your mind, but as for actual zombies…nope. Only a couple guys even come back to life. The zombification is more similar to that of the aforementioned Doom movie: it makes you nearly invincible, messes up your face, and makes you more than a little crazy. That’s if it doesn’t just outright kill you first. If you were hoping to see undead crawling out of their graves in SS uniforms before getting melted by machine gun fire, I’m sorry to say that this isn’t your movie.
There are a few really cool scenes that are still worth checking out, however. The opening scene of the soldiers locked in their plane before it gets shot down are unbelievably tense and wonderfully kinetic. It’s a lot like the First Man in that respect (which you can find a review of here) because director Julius Avery tries to put the audience in the crashing plane with the soldiers and succeeds likes a pro. There’s also a scene mid-way through the movie in which the audience is first shown the full horrors of the lab and let me tell you, it is uncomfortable. There are some seriously messed up things going on in this scene, and the entire sequence is haunting, tense, and disturbing in all of the best ways. It’s just a shame that the rest of the film couldn’t quite match those heights again throughout the rest of it’s run-time.
All in all, Overlord isn’t a bad movie. I’d even go as far to say that it’s actually a pretty decent movie if it’s your kind of thing. But I feel like there might have been more potential here for something even better and I really thought this would end up being my favorite movie of 2018 by a landslide. The climax was intense but significantly lacking in the zombies department, much like the rest of the film. It almost seems like Overlord could never really decide what it wanted to be. There were times when it was a serious war movie trying to add social commentary on the true horrors of war, and at other times it seemed like it wanted to be a campy zombie B-movie that was just in it for the schlock and fun. Unfortunately for Overlord, it’s hesitation to commit to either tone leaves it feeling a little confused and unsure of it’s identity. I think if it had committed more to either approach, it could have been something truly special. Having said that, it never quite hits the highs that I think the film might have been capable of, but it’s very enjoyable nonetheless. It just didn’t live up to it’s potential.
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