Dir: Henry Hobson
Writer(s): John Scott 3
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abigail Breslin, Joley Richardson, J.D Evermore, Bryce Romero and Douglas M. Griffin
Synopsis: A teenage girl in the Midwest becomes infected by an outbreak of a disease that slowly turns the infected into cannibalistic zombies. During her transformation, her loving father stays by her side.
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*
Arnold Schwarzenegger in a zombie movie? So we can expect some heavy zombie gore, witty one-liners, and moments of horror, right? Well, not with Maggie. Instead, we get a heavy drama about a loving father trying to protect and keep his daughter alive from a virus that is eating away at her. So I bet the question you’re asking is if Maggie is any good? For the most part yes, yes it is.
Schwarzenegger stars as Wade, a father who, at the beginning of the film, finds his missing daughter, Maggie (Breslin) in the midst of a virus outbreak. Even after finding out that Maggie has been infected with the virus, he takes her back to their home so they can spend the last couple of weeks together before he is forced by law to send her to quarantine. However, Maggie starts to show signs of the infection rapidly speeding up and Wade has to decide if sending her away is the best option, or tough it out and run the risk of his own life.
Maggie for all intent and purposes really works. Like I wrote before, this isn’t a typical zombie film that we’re all use to watching. Instead first time director Henry Hobson gives us a fully blown zombie drama. It also takes a different approach for the most part. The virus, which is called the necroambulist virus, doesn’t automatically make you a zombie (of course they never use the term). Instead the virus takes its time and varies on person to person. Also, society hasn’t fully collapsed, but it is barely holding on from the looks of it. The other thing, which could be considered a slightly negative thing, is we never find out some of the basics. There is a hospital where the infected are put to see how along they are and how severe the virus is in them, but we don’t really get a firm grasp of how the doctors go into checking the infected. But, they are far into the virus because they have pamphlets to give to the infected so they know what is happening to them.
Here is the thing about Maggie that keeps it from being a really great movie. Hobson and screenwriter John Scott 3 (yes the number 3 not III) tried their best to stay away from clichés of the genre, although they do fall into some. At the end of the day, this is a film about a father and daughter relationship in a zombie apocalypse, and not the other way around. There are very brief and few scenes of action, but they feel more like tragic scenes rather than relying on an action beat. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but the film sets up a strong premise, but lacks to really hit a strong execution. The thing that keeps you watching the film without thinking of its faults, is the acting from leads Schwarzenegger and Breslin.
Schwarzenegger recently has been opening his career to more dramatic action films, but it was nice, and I’ll admit odd at times to watch him rely on his dramatic chops rather than his action chops. He plays the father role extremely well. His character Wade, loves his daughter and all he wants is to help her through this difficult time. Breslin, on the other hand pulls double duty. She has to play the scarred but strong young woman trying not to fall apart, but also being a bit terrifying when she starts to “turn.”
Although being father and daughter isn’t enough. Wade and Maggie do share quite a few scenes and some many of them are powerful and great to watch, but other than that, their relationship is never pushed to that next level even though the opportunity is really there. One of the best scenes of the film doesn’t even have Arnold in it. Maggie goes to a bonfire with some friends before they start school (another sign of how society hasn’t completely fallen yet). The scene and the follow up really show you who Maggie was before the virus hit and how others, besides adults, see it. Maggie finds out that someone she was close to, Trent (Romero), also has the virus. Seeing both of them talk about themselves and seeing the difference between them is great to see.
Finally, the pacing and length could have been worked on. This is something I usually don’t think about too much when watching a movie, only because it really doesn’t matter if the material calls for it and if the length and pace works. For Maggie, however pacing does become its enemy near the middle of the film and during the final act. I read from a few people say the film could work better as a long short film, which I kind of agree with, but even some of the great scenes wouldn’t have worked without the build before it.
Also, the ending, obviously I won’t spoil it since this is a spoiler free review, but all I say is that I was very mixed about the ending, and in my theater there was a very audible reaction to it which I wasn’t ready for. The ending will really split you and whoever you’re watching it with. I think the ending barely worked and needed a bit more to really convince me that this is how it should have ended.
All in all, Maggie works on a lot of levels, which makes its missteps frustration because the film has a lot of potential to be even greater than it can be. The performances take the film to the next level and the different take on the zombie genre is welcoming. Just remember, you’re watching an actual zombie drama and not a zombie action film.
3.5 out of 5