Maggie – 3 out of 5
Okay, so if you told me 20 years ago that the Terminator would one day be in a zombie movie I would have immediately called you a witch because you are having visions of the future and then would go to the heads of the town folks and see that you and your black magic loving ass was burned at the stake. However, in all seriousness, I never expected to see Arnold in a zombie film (and the Expendables films don’t count—sorry, that was an easy joke and I shouldn’t have gone for it…but I did, so let’s move on). Hell, if it was going to happen—and with how hot zombies are now in our pop culture—it would have been an action-packed extravaganza with Arnie blowing zombie brains away and delivering horrible one-liners like no tomorrow. I sure as spit didn’t expect a drama and I really, REALLY didn’t expect it to be one of the films where you see the most humanistic acting from a man that can play a killer robot really well.
|He's pondering if he's ever truly been back.|
After a zombie virus called the Necroambulist virus hits the globe, the world attempts to operate as normal but as normal as a world can be with zombies shuffling around. Curfews are put into place to protect the citizens and the infected—after they reach a certain stage and all bits of their humanity are gone—are thrown into quarantine zones where they are put down. Maggie Vogel (Abigail Breslin) finds herself trapped in the city after curfew and ends up being bit. Her father; Wade Vogel (Arnold Schwarzenegger), comes and collects her from the hospital and decides to do everything he can to protect her or, at the very least, allow her to live out her days in relative comfort and ease her passing when the unfortunate day comes that her transformation is complete and she becomes a decaying shadow of her former self. But until that day comes, Maggie is forced to come to grips with her life being taken away from her and the reality that she will become a member of the undead. Meanwhile, Wade must wrestle with the reality that this is the one thing he might not be able to protect his daughter from.
|Nope. None of this. Absolutely none. I would run and never stop if I saw this thing.|
I had heard some bad things about Maggie before I got around to seeing it and went in with some low expectations but found the film better than I was ready for. I’ll admit that the movie is bogged down by a slow moving story that doesn’t have a lot of meat to it, it puts in a lot of filler in the form of moody imagery and the film could have used a few more light-hearted moments between the two main characters to show that Maggie’s journey wasn’t all depressing but, overall, the film has some merit. The biggest draw this film has going for it was the performances from Breslin and Schwarzenegger.
|The virus causes Arnold to burn his crops. What you can't hear is him yelling, |
"I'm here! Do it! Kill me now!"
Abigail Breslin really nails the difficult performance of showing a young girl about to see her entire life slip away and become a member of the walking dead and she does it in a way that we don’t usually see in zombie fiction. Maggie isn’t ripped open by the dead and left to quickly change when she dies but rather we get to see her gradually change. Even though she gets bitten, her transformation isn't the same we've seen in a thousand other zombie films. Along the way we see her interact with the friends she has the horror of not being able to see again soon, she spends some time with her family and, because life loves irony, gets to connect with a young boy who is also infected. While most of Breslin’s performance is reserved and quiet, her transformation feels a lot more realistic (as realistic as someone becoming a zombie can be) than what we’ve seen in previous zombie films and it makes for the more intense moments—like watching her body fall apart and seeing how those like her are treated by the general populace—become that much more important and attention-grabbing.
|Let's hope that no one in Abigail's life have seen her other zombie movie; Zombieland.|
She wouldn't have lived as long in this one if they did.
As good as Breslin was as Maggie, I was absolutely floored by Arnold’s performance. I found it amazing that it’s in a zombie film that we see Schwarzenegger at his most human. Never in my life have I seen the man who is best known for telling us he’ll be back and to get to the choppa be so real. This was honestly the best acting I’ve ever seen from the man and it was unbelievable to see how real he made Wade feel. In every scene you feel Wade’s love for Maggie and his instinct to protect her. In the more intimate moments when Wade is alone, you see the pent up sadness boiling over and you feel that he is out of his element and is nearly lost at how he can help his daughter. It was incredible and it made the film something to watch. Arnold’s performance allowed this movie to be something that everyone can relate to and, even if you’re not a zombie fan, you can find yourself sympathizing with his journey and his fatherly instincts.
|Arnold's crying...let's see if any internet chauvinists have the balls to say he's|
being a pussy.
Finally, I also really enjoyed the fictional realty that is established in Maggie. The movie isn’t like a lot of zombie fiction features that show a world that is completely devastated by the outbreak and man is left to fight the dead and somehow survive on a landscape that is as dead and as decaying as the enemy. While this reality isn’t quite the same as our everyday life, the production did a great job of making it believable that the world is somehow trying to cope with this virus. There are still hardships but people are still trying to live their lives like this virus isn’t going to completely obliterate the mundane and routine. It was a refreshing take and a new way to set the stage for zombie fiction and something I would be very interested to see other zombie features try. For example, I would love to see a short film that centers on fast food worker trying to live his life in this type of reality...and then seeing the people who still think he doesn't deserve a living wage even though he has to risk being killed by zombies so he can get your tubby butt your double cheeseburger with super size fries and large diet coke.
|Sure, their world is still bleak but it's not the usual zombie outbreak bleak.|
Overall, Maggie is worth a chance but the film is bogged down by a slow moving story. The plot could have been assisted by some additional happier moments between Wade and Maggie—if would have helped shown their father/daughter relationship on a level that isn’t just a father protecting his zombifying little girl. Getting into more depth with the characters might have also helped the film decrease its overused go-to move of intercutting B-role imagery to help establish mood. While this tactic isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it did often make the film feel like it was padding itself out in order to get to feature length.
|I'm not a father but I'm sure there would be limits to my fatherly love...especially when|
my zombified daughter is giving me a kiss goodnight.
Maggie isn’t a terrible film and contains some great performances and offers up a fresh new look at the post-apocalypse landscape of the overly familiar zombie fic. The film does stumble greatly due to a very narrow plot that doesn’t venture out far enough or develop what it has deep enough and it makes for a story that has a tendency to drag very often. However, it’s definitely worth a shot for Arnold’s performance alone and it definitely seems like a great jumping point to make more poignant and emotional zombie films in the future.