You’d have never thought a film with Arnold versus zombies would play out as a grieving father watching his daughter die.
Wade Vogel (Arnold Schwarzenegger) tracks down his daughter who had fled their home after becoming infected by a virus that slowly turns the victim into a mindless cannibal. He refuses to accept her fate, and wants only for her to live the rest of her days as a normal girl.
Maggie is a hard and bleak experience, and I must admit straight away that I was not in the frame of mind to watch it. While I of course knew this was strictly a drama rather than an Arnold action movie, I still wasn’t ready for how depressing the experience really is.
It is sad that Maggie received so little praise from the public as well as a fatally limited release, making a film that actually stands out in Schwarzenegger’s career as an acting role get a public 33% rating on RottenTomatoes.com while the travesty that is Terminator Genisys gets a depressing 61%. How exactly can Arnold prove he can do other things, if when he does just that the film isn’t distributed anywhere so people can watch it? Regardless of it being an independent production; you’d think Arnold’s name only would promote it even a little bit.
Anyway, enough about numbers.
As a “zombie” film, Maggie is quite unique. Somewhere between The Walking Dead (season 2, specifically) and a cancer story-line, it is not your traditional zombie fare. There are no burning cities, no hordes of brain-chewing monsters, no chases, no invasions, no isolation, no chemical warfare, no military. Arnold doesn’t even quip one liners or shoot any zombies. This is a very morose, sad story about what a family could go through if a “zombie” virus were to become a reality.
The film’s cinematography makes everything look worn and drab, rustic brown and mellow grey, I don’t think there was any vibrant colour throughout the story. We see a world suffering a long winter of famine; Wade and his family live in American farmland but crops have had to be burned to perhaps reduce the spread of infection.
Arnold looks tired, an incredible transformation from him, to think there are brief moments here that the giant Austrian could vanish into a character. Although the economical script did feel like it was deliberately stopping him from speaking to any great extent, but it wasn’t overly damaging; the film is a quiet, atmospheric piece already.
Genre fans will argue that these aren’t in fact zombies Wade and his family are dealing with; that zombies are monsters that are born once someone dies. I don’t remember the film ever mentioning the disease as “zombification”, and really, when a zombie film has a maximum of two zombies on the screen at any one time (and only one time) and plays more like the genre’s answer to My Sister’s Keeper then you may want to refrain from nitpicking.
I cannot say I enjoyed the film, but I don’t know if I was expected to… This is about as real and uncompromisingly human a story as zombie movies have ever been, and for that it is exceptional. Did it hold my interest throughout? No. It isn’t a perfect movie by any stretch and characters feel a little too muted for how severe in tone the film attempts to be.
But I can appreciate what it was trying to do with such a tired genre, and I can appreciate Arnold’s huge step into dramatic acting. This is about as far removed from his typical roles as you can get!
Yes, it is better than Terminator Genisys.
Additional Marshmallows: This is director Henry Hobson’s first film, having previously worked exclusively in art and graphic design department roles, for films such as Snow White and the Huntsman, video games including The Last of Us, and even the Academy Award Ceremonies for the last four years.