Army of Thieves wasn’t the most obvious spin-off to come from epic zombie-apocalypse brawl Army of the Dead, eschewing the high-stakes world of undead-murdering for a prequel movie that largely eschews the ghouls and instead focuses on a trio of safe-cracking heists.


Still, as star and director Matthias Schweighöfer explains, this was sort of the point of the endeavour.

“I loved Army of the Dead, obviously because I’m part of it, and I’m a huge fan of Zack Snyder,” he told and other press.

“But when it came to the prequel that was the first point we were talking about. ‘How do we want to make the film? How should it look? Does it need its own universe. What’s the combination with Army of the Dead?’ Zack just said: ‘Matthias, dream big. Do your own thing and create your own universe. It’s your film. Go for it. Do everything you want to do.’

“I was allowed to do whatever I wanted, to create it from the ground up. I was really happy when Zack said ‘Matthias, it’s your baby’.”

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“I thought it was natural to the story and natural to Matthias’s character and frankly to our preconceived notions about it being more of a genre-busting franchise than necessarily a zombie franchise right out of the box,” Snyder agreed.

“I love genre and so deconstructing genre is one of my favourite things to do. I felt like this kind of heist romantic comedy was another amazing trope-filled universe that we just wanted to go and explore.”

Still, that’s not to say that Army of Thieves doesn’t have a few connections to its parent movie. Read on to see how it all joins up, but beware – we’ll be dealing with minor spoilers from hereon out.

How Army of Thieves connects to Army of the Dead

Matthias Schweighofer as Ludwig Dieter in Army of the Dead
Matthias Schweighofer as Ludwig Dieter in Army of the Dead Netflix

In Army of the Dead, a team of experts led by Dave Bautista’s Scott Ward are tasked to break into a zombie-infested Las Vegas, break into a casino’s vault and make off with the money. Among their number? Eccentric safe-cracker Ludwig Dieter (Schweighöfer), whose job is to get inside the Götterdämmerung safe protecting the cash.

Army of Thieves is set a few years before this, explaining how Dieter (real name Sebastian) was recruited into a crew of thieves, taking his first steps into criminality and escaping his humdrum life.

The zombies of Army of the Dead exist in this movie, but are regulated to news reports, chit-chat and dream sequences, and don’t play a major role in the main plot. But that isn’t to say there aren’t other connections.

Obviously, Schweighöfer’s character appears in both films, while Army of the Dead’s villainous Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada) appears in Army of Thieves in a photo. Nathalie Emmanuel’s Army of Thieves character, conversely, had a nod in the earlier film, with Dieter introduced working for a locksmith company called Gwendoline’s (presumably named after her) in Army of the Dead)

(Army of Thieves also, oddly, reveals how Sebastian changed his name to Ludwig Dieter, which it turns out is a pseudonym).

Army of the Dead (Netflix)

Army of Thieves also builds up to the events of Army of the Dead by regularly referencing the “Ring Cycle” of legendary safes that Dieter and co want to crack. They only know the location of three, and the fourth (the Götterdämmerung) is spoken of as a hope for the future – and as fans know, Dieter finally got a shot at it in Army of the Dead.

The film actually spells this out fairly clearly at the end of Army of Thieves, including a full scene from the earlier film (where Dieter was introduced, essentially) just in case audiences hadn’t made the connection. Cleverly, Army of Thieves had built up to this moment in its colour grading, shifting from more muted, metallic hues (in keeping with its safecracking story) to the lighter cinematography used in Army of the Dead.

“We talked about grading, like ‘Let’s start more grey-ish, dark and rainy’ but then it was ‘Let’s give the film a brighter and sunnier look’ as we worked through all the different countries,” Schweighöfer told us.

“It gets lighter and lighter at the end to connect with the desert [of Army of the Dead].”

Does Dieter/Sebastian die in Army of the Dead?

Army of the Dead

A slight pall hanging over the story of Army of Thieves is that viewers already know where Sebastian/Dieter’s story ends – rescuing one of his fellow teammates in Las Vegas by shutting them inside a safe, before being swamped by zombies himself and presumably killed.

“We made this decision to do a romantic comedy heist film, because at the end it’s heartbreaking when you know what will happen in Army of the Dead for Dieter’s arc,” Schweighöfer said.

“For the character of Dieter it’s very important to have his origin story like this because it really hurts when you see Army of the Dead.”

This ending is hinted at in Army of Thieves itself, when Sebastian/Dieter dreams of being attacked by zombies while opening a safe and his team-mate Karina suggests it could be a “prophecy” of his future death, little knowing how right she is.

Assuming, of course, that Dieter did die in Army of the Dead. Technically, you never see him killed on-screen, merely dragged away from the camera by Alpha zombie “Zeus” as the safe door closes on Van (Omari Hardwick). While it’s unlikely he could have fought off the zombie leader, Zeus was seen to take other living people as hostages before “turning” them, and it’s possible Dieter was similarly saved.

If he was, and he managed to shelter from the nuclear strike on Vegas (a big "if" there, admittedly), it’s possible he could turn up again in the upcoming sequel Planet of the Dead (or an Army of Thieves sequel).


Army of Thieves is streaming on Netflix now. For more, check out our dedicated Movies page, our guide to the best movies on Netflix or our full TV Guide.