The gear carried by each member of the Las Vengeance team in Army of the Dead is important, but Vanderohe’s rifle is an opening credits callback.
Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick) might be known for the big saw he carries in Army of the Dead, but the rifle he carries is also a great callback to one of the more bizarre parts of the opening credits sequence. Each member of the Las Vengeance crew had a very particular set of equipment, much of it personalized to match their style and personality. Throughout the opening sequence, the characters also all go through a transformation taking them from their pre-zombie war life to a full-blown zombie killer squad, and some of the equipment they pick up along the way also tells a story.
After the initial zombie outbreak in Vegas, the opening credits show a bunch of paratroopers floating down to a horde of zombies in a boneheaded strategic move that raised more than a few eyebrows. Throughout the rest of the movie, the remains of paratroopers can occasionally be seen hanging from different buildings, and Netflix even suggests audiences can play a sort of “Where’s Waldo” game trying to find all the paratrooper Easter eggs. While it’s not the same Easter eggs they’re talking about, Vanderohe does carry his own paratrooper Easter egg as one of his weapons.
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Since the Las Vengeance crew isn’t actually a military unit, much of the military equipment they collect had to have been scavenged from the fallout in Vegas, and that certainly applies to Vanderohe, who seems to have picked up one of the paratrooper’s M4 rifles, according to the book Army of the Dead: A Film by Zack Snyder: The Making of the Film by Peter Aperlo: “Vanderohe’s saw and his rifle are decorated with the Shiva Omkar and verses in Sanskrit, reflecting his belief in the larger spiritual concept of death as a part of life. His choice of gun – a sub-compact paratrooper model of an M4 – is indicative of his role as a close combat fighter.”
While there was certainly no shortage of M4 rifles available in Vegas thanks to the number of fallen troops during the war, it makes sense for many of the team to have picked one up, and that’s what both Scott Ward (Dave Bautista) and Maria Cruz (Ana de la Reguera) carry, but Vanderohe carrying the paratrooper model is interesting simply because we know exactly where he got it from since we saw the paratroopers being dropped on their suicide mission into the city. The fact that it’s meant for close combat also fits with his saw, but also his more philosophical perspective where he has a more intimate perspective of the zombies than many others on the team.
The costuming and set design teams put a lot of effort into how the characters and environments fill in small story elements and character backgrounds. This particular reference is hardly integral to the plot or Vanderohe’s character, but since the sight of seeing paratroopers fall into a crowd of zombies stood out so much from the opening credit sequence, it’s funny to see the sacrifice wasn’t totally a waste, as some of the gear went to a good cause in Vanderohe’s hands.
Related: Army of the Dead: Vanderohe’s Time Loop Theory Explained
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