Directed by Henry Hobson
Written by John Scott 3
At 67, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Hollywood bankability is perhaps behind him. No longer can he convince audiences that he is a badass capable of destruction, bedlam, and heroics deserving of high praise or truckloads of box office dollars. Sabotage and The Last Stand prove his ability to carry an action film by himself is no longer feasible. This is less a dig towards Schwarzenegger than it is a logical comment on his age. Schwarzenegger will always be remembered as a top action hero, worthy of a legacy of a long list of hits in the 80s and 90s. But perhaps it has come time to sunset Arnold’s tough guy, action hero persona. And if he still wishes to make an impact and be relevant in the film industry, perhaps it is time to work outside his comfort zone, much like he is doing here with the family/zombie drama Maggie.
Directed by Henry Hobson, who you only know from his work on title designs, Maggie features a near future reality where a new disease, Necroambulism, literally “walking dead”, has developed and threatens the population, promising to infect humans and lay waste to food sources. When Wade (Arnold Schwarzenegger) learns that his daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin) has contracted the disease, he seeks help from his doctor friend and his new wife Caroline (Joely Richardson). Going against the law of the land in favor of his love for his daughter, Wade defies the quarantine law which requires he hand his daughter over to authorities after 8 weeks to ensure public safety. As Maggie progresses, Wade must soon find the mercy and the love to do the right thing.
We are currently in the midst of a few fads in the film industry. One is brazenly obvious: super hero movies. With the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, six of the top ten box office opening weekends are superhero movies. Zombies too have become a recent fad with the success of the television show The Walking Dead. With any fad, however, originality must be found in order to perpetuate the obsession amongst the greater audience who won’t simply show up based on premise. With Maggie, writer John Scott 3 and director Henry Hobson find that originality. The story approaches zombies from a much more personal and sympathetic perspective than almost anything else I’ve seen. They explore the painfully simple fact that zombies do or at least did, in fact, have friends and family too.
It sounds like too simple a revelation, but it makes spending time with these zombies much more than just a gory excuse for violence against the undead. That zombie was someone’s son or daughter, wife or husband. At what point are they no longer themselves, no longer human? Asking these questions earn Hobson and Scott 3 a lot of points, but unfortunately their execution on screen lacks far behind their conceptual triumphs. There are moments of emotional heft, often heightened by solid performances from Breslin and Schwarzenegger. The cinematography/art direction is a mixed bag, delivering a perfectly post-apocalyptic, drab color scheme, washing out any hope of color. However, this pallet can feel almost too calculated and depressing at times.
Ultimately what brings the film back from its promising premise is the dialogue and amateurish supporting performances, which are often awkward in their wooden and rehearsed delivery. For such an original idea, Scott 3 falls back on cliché far too often to color in between the lines of his drawing. The strength of the framework makes this a movie I can recommend to those interested in zombies, or a unique spin on the genre, but I fear it will fail to convert non-fans, or impress indie film buffs too much. It’s notable for its attempted subversion of genre, nothing more, nothing less. But I’d prefer to focus more on that achievement than the films other shortcomings.
**1/2 – Average