Army of Thieves: Wagner's Ring Cycle & Snyder Connections Explained

Warning: The following contains SPOILERS for Army of Thieves

Zack Snyder's Army of Thieves revolves around Hans Wagner's mythological Ring Cycle — but just what is the Ring Cycle, and how does it connect to the Army of the Dead universe and Snyder himself? Unlike Army of the Dead, which heavily featured Greek mythology, Army of Thieves revolves around the Germanic heroic legends told by German composer Richard Wagner. While the stories behind the Ring cycle might seem of secondary importance to what's inside, the mythology behind them is integral to Snyder's work.

As the origin story of Army of the Dead's beloved safecracker, Ludwig Dieter, Army of the Thieves reveals how Dieter got swept up in the world of bank heists. Army of the Dead hinted at Dieter's dream of cracking four infamous safes known as Hans Wagner's Ring Cycle. Each safe was designed for one drama in Richard Wagner's cycle known as Der Ring des Nibelungen, or The Ring of the Nibelung. The Ring Cycle is an epic story of the theft of a magic ring that has the power to rule the world, and the fight between Norse gods and humans to possess it. The drama was told over the span of four parts: Das RheingoldDie Walküre, Siegfried, and the Götterdämmerung. 

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The mythology of the Ring Cycle is deeply embedded in both Army of the Dead and Army of Thieves. Der Ring des Nibelungen is filled with theft, love, and sacrifice — all of which are major themes in both movies. Wagner's safes, much like the mystical weapon Nothung in the Ring Cycle, were designed only to be wielded by those who had proven themselves worthy, creating a parallel between Dieter and the epic hero, Siegfried. Dieter and the gang's heist is even scheduled similarly to the original drama, which was meant to be played over the span of four days. The Rhinegold, much like the heist of the safe bearing its name, was the prelude to the proper cycle. The fourth safe, the Götterdämmerung, the safe underneath the Las Vegas strip in Army of the Dead, is the drama's thrilling finale. The Götterdämmerung's presence in Army of the Dead only further imbeds Wagner's work into the fabric of the zombie saga, opening the door for the mythos to appear in future projects.

The Ring of the Nibelung has had multiple interpretations over the years. One of the most popular interpretations, championed by famed Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, is that Wagner's Ring Cycle is a socialist critique of industrial society and the greed it has given birth to. The desire to possess the magical ring and the power it promised corrupted many characters in the Ring Cycle. This interpretation is reflected both in Hans Wagner's Ring Cycle safes and Snyder's Army of the Dead — which is, in itself, a critique of American capitalist society.

Snyder has long explored mythology in his work. In Army of the Dead, the zombie empire is built surrounding Greek mythology. The zombies run Las Vegas from the Olympus Casino, a parallel to Mount Olympus, where the Greek gods ruled. The Alpha zombie dons the name Zeus, taking the moniker from the patriarch of Greek mythology. Now, Snyder is working on an anime surrounding Norse mythology for Netflix titled Twilight of the Gods, which is the English translation of "Götterdämmerung." Army of Thieves, as well as past and future endeavors, prove that Zack Snyder has a strong philosophy of mythology in film.

Next: Army Of The Dead 2's Villain Is Zombie Dieter - Theory Explained

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