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By Nguyen Le · May 13, 2015
Here’s something to let Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody quit ringing in your head: Arnold Schwarzenegger in a drama zombie film. By avoiding the familiar elements of the modern undead production, Maggie creates its own mark in the now-overloaded subgenre… and makes its audience-deterring symptoms more obvious in the process.
A necroambulist – walking dead, upon translation – virus has ruined the Midwest and, soon enough, the life of farmer Wade (Arnold Schwarzenegger) when he finds out his daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin) is bitten. Similar to Warm Bodies, Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland or Fido, Maggie proves the zombie horror subgenre has other fields worth exploring than running-and-gunning and uniting-and-dividing (or even from the given examples, insides-tickling), a field in particular called straightforward gut-wrenching and dealing with inevitability.
With emotion being the film’s core, the main players – Breslin and Schwarzenegger – face a tremendous challenge. Going in, there’s only hope for the former, having displayed the spark in Signs and going on to be nominated an Oscar for Little Miss Sunshine. Going out, both performers deliver. Prepare to have heads turning because, apart from how Breslin perfectly delivers notes of tender and panic, here is a forever-iconic action hero going low-key and being natural being so. The majority of Maggie’s entertainment factor lies in seeing one actress goes beyond expectations and one actor goes against them.
Much credit should be given to director Henry Hobson who prioritizes screenwriter John Scott 3’s story over showcasing what style techniques he has learnt from designing high-profile film and game titles. It’s a humble and helpful decision; the characters’ journey is made significant and every key moment can be felt in full force. Despite the crucial omnipresent gloominess, there is an astonishing number of pleasant moments that greatly contributes to Maggie’s personal signature in terms of substance, specifically depth plus world-building. There’s nothing but promise imbued in Hobson and Scott in their directing and writing debuts, respectively.
Nevertheless, Maggie is a bizarre watch because of how many non-surprises the look and, mainly, the screenplay collect that make Maggie’s cause to be surprising… useless. The film uses a muted color palette that mimics The Road or The Book of Eli, has its beats telegraphed at minute one and a twist ending that seems to be included for the sake of twisting since it completely devalues a major character’s decision. Clearly the lack of subtlety or the (at times too much) measured pace aren’t the largest issues here, but they are what viewers willing to let slide provided that they can ignore the others. Let the sad news roll in because the task is impossible.
Maggie has the necessary ingredients to draw itself away from being a typical undead outing, but they turn out to be the very thing that wounds it. While well-intentioned, the film can only satisfy those wanting to see a unique Schwarzenegger or a zombie film on the big screen. Other than that? Maybe one should do what the doctors have suggested to Wade: quarantine Maggie.