Maggie, the most unusual Arnold Schwarzenegger movie since, well, ever, is something I’d strongly anticipated for the better part of a year, since first hearing about it. It’s kind of like Cop Land, that “serious” movie that Sylvester Stallone made back in 1997 – a decent try that never really did much to break him away from the action genre. Now, I don’t think that Schwarzenegger took this movie to try to carve out a new stage of his career (considering he then made Terminator: Genisys), but the end result is pretty much the same – Maggie isn’t going to give him any new credibility.
Right away I’ll say the movie isn’t bad – and I definitely liked it better than the three other people I watched it with – but it does fall way short of the potential of its plot. There are a number of significant flaws that are worth mentioning: the milieu feels wrong. The world (or at least the US) is in the grip of a zombie plague, yet you’d never really know it from the way people act; it’s as if there’s just a nasty case of bird flu going around. People tend to spend a significant amount of time infected before actually turning into zombies, yet there isn’t a full-on movement to round them up and contain the infection ASAP. In fact, the two infected characters in the movie are clearly turning into zombies, yet they’re still able to go hang out with their buddies? Stupid. The actual lack of Schwarzenegger screentime is unusual, like he signed the contract but didn’t want to fully commit by asking for his character to be written better – because his role is seriously underwritten here. Maybe intended to be a subtle piece, but I saw it as a waste. And the pacing is boner-killingly slow. The movie is imbued with such a sense of gravitas that it feels like it might collapse in on itself at any moment with all the downcast looks. Listen, I’m not saying this movie should be a laff-fest, but tonal balance brings out the high points and the low points. Maggie is flat everywhere.
There is one extremely brief scene that contains a truly heartbreaking image – when Schwarzenegger encounters a zombified father and daughter shambling through the woods by his property, except here, the daughter is a child, and when the father is duly dispatched, the little girl zombie is rooted to the spot and radiates such a powerful sense of shock and loss, even in her advanced state of decay, that it literally brought tears to my eyes.
But to be sure, the movie is infused with a sweetness I found endearing. In the end, the movie is only REALLY about a man whose beloved daughter is dying of a fatal disease, and it plays this core value very well. As a man who has a grown daughter I really felt those scenes between Schwarzenegger and Abigail Breslin. Every one of them made me realize how powerfully I love my daughter and what I would do to protect her. It’s worth watching, but I really wish it could have been written better. The plot and the actors deserved it.
© Andrew Hope 2015
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