Starring Abigail Breslin, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Joely Richardson, Laura Cayouette, Denise Williamson, Raeden Greer, J.D. Evermore, Aiden Flowers, Taylor Murphy
Directed by Henry Hobson
Maggie was billed as a different kind of zombie movie, and in some ways that is true, but the things you know of zombies still hold true. The infection only spreads through a bite, although everyone in this movie is also scared of it being highly contagious (even though there’s no evidence of that from what we’re shown). The movie never goes into this, but for me this point speaks more to our dependence and willingness to believe whatever the media or someone in power is telling is, true or not. Anyway, the big difference here is that Maggie is not an apocalypse film, and that does inherently change the notion of what we know a zombie movie to be.
Without the apocalypse threat, there is no survival aspect to Maggie. Survival has always been one of the major hallmarks of any kind of zombie story, so it is interesting and novel to consider what a zombie uprising would be like if it was more like other outbreaks. It might seem like zombies and the apocalypse would go hand in hand, but if we believe that the government could get it together enough to create the quarantine zones every one in Maggie is always talking about, and that they’re going a great job containing everything, then it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where Maggie could happen.
The absence of fighting for survival against the horde places a focus on dealing with infected loved ones like no film I’ve seen before. The zombie virus is treated like a terminal or rapidly progressing mental illness. We’re focused on Maggie so we see as she slowly loses her mind to an uncontrollable urge to feed on human flesh. Arnold is confronted with this crushing reality from the opening moments of the film, but at that moment it’s something he can put off for later. He is clearly shown to have the skills necessary to take care of his daughter after she turns, but since this is a different kind of zombie movie it’s never really about that; it’s more about the connection between father and daughter. Maggie’s mother has already passed on (presumably before the zombie outbreak), so Maggie is his only living connection to his first wife. He has remarried and he has a couple of other kids, but Maggie seems special to him because of this connection.
All of this is fairly interesting and thought-provoking in a “What would I do?” way, but Maggie breaks down for me in the delivery of the material. The film is primarily shot handheld and in tight close-ups, so there’s a ton of distracting camera movement and shifting to keep things in frame. It’s not as egregious as it could be, but it did annoy me. The color is also heavily desaturated, probably to help give the film its somber atmosphere, but can we just go back to the days when filmmakers were competent enough to create a tone and an atmosphere without heavy color grading? Thanks. The music is also really overbearing and obvious in its attempts to influence your emotions.
Amidst my complaints, though, there are some very nice shots sprinkled throughout Maggie: Arnold walking in his field carrying a torch, all the shots with the fox, and the last couple of shots that the film ends on. As director Henry Hobson’s debut film, it shows promise, but the promise shown is definitely on the arthouse end of the spectrum. It’s more Terence Malick than George Romero, basically. I’m not super excited for Hobson’s next film (whatever it is), but I am curious.
If you’re a big Arnold fan, I’d say you should watch Maggie to see him give a very different and restrained performance. On this site I’ve long championed his underrated acting, so it’s nice to finally see a director throw him into a small, acting-based film like this. Maggie is not for everyone, though, as it’s fairly slow-moving and artsy, so just remember what you’re getting into if you decide to watch it.
Next up in this chronological journey through the films of Arnold Schwarzenegger is Last Action Hero! I was 11 when it came out. I saw it in the theater and I hated it. It crushed me. I haven’t seen it since. See ya then!
I really enjoyed this movie, much like you I was expecting something different from big Arn, and he delivered. Subtle and quiet, and no Brad Pitt or extravagance anywhere. Refreshing. My review of Maggie will be up in the next few weeks (got some other stuff to get to first, though), hope you can check it out.