WARNING: MILD SPOILERS FOLLOW
Hey gang! What happens when you take A Fault in our Stars and shoehorn zombies into it? You get Maggie! A movie that takes one of the most horrible plagues in horror and reduces it to a terminal illness. If a loved one of yours was diagnosed with cancer, what would you do? You’d cry, you’d hug it out, you’d find a support group, you’d be by there side supporting them in this difficult time. If a loved one is bitten by a GODDAM ZOMBIE…would you go through those same steps? Let’s discuss…
When the trailer for Maggie came out, I was excited. It looked to be a take on the zombie genre that wasnt comic-booky or campy horror. And Arnold’s in it! Alright, I’m down for some Schwarzenegger drama. I believe in him. Who directed this thing? The guy that directed the credits for The Walking Dead? Ok. Everyone has to break into directing at some point and I guess the imagery from that opening is fitting for this film. The reviews are pouring in and the majority are less than favorable. But most of them are from professional critics and screw professional critics! The user reviews aren’t terrible…for the most part. The trailer looks good! How could the movie fall short of the trailer? Cause thats NEVER happened.
This movie is basically the trailer with long long long long long gaps of shots of Arnold walking, sitting, driving, etc. in between the handful of conversations that take place. The movie might have 10 lines of dialogue. The movie is heavy on atmosphere, which I will give it credit, it pulls off. The world has that desolate feel that a good zombie outbreak brings. Its set up to be a world on the rebound though…infection rates have been slowed through the use of mandatory quarantines and the cleanup has begun. Schools are in session, hospitals and police forces are back on their day to day functions. However the movie really has a hard time committing to whether or not this is still a dangerous world or not. For a place that you can still wander into an abandoned gas station and be ambushed by an infected lurking in the shadows, parents seem to be just fine letting their kids go out at night, by themselves, into the goddam woods, to build a goddam fire and sit around bullshitting without a care in the world.
Its things like this that kept pulling me out of being immersed in this world. There is almost no fear in spreading this disease. A mother calls over her child in the waiting room of a hospital when she notices Maggie is infected…but that’s about it. They explain this away by stating that it takes 6-8 weeks to fully turn, however on the same note they talk about ‘what if someone turns early’. There really are no safeguards to prevent this…oh, you got bit. Well, lets look you over and send you on your merry way. By the way, make sure you voluntarily come back to this death camp when you hit 6 weeks. THANKS!
The infected have pale translucent skin with black veins spiderwebbing their bodies, which are falling apart. No consideration is given to a severed finger spraying tarry black blood all over a kitchen. Maggie is encouraged to go hang out with her friends at a bonfire in the woods, one in which is nearing the end of his 6-8 week death sentence, with NO supervision at all. Just go roast some marshmallows with this ticking cannibal time-bomb.
Then theres the fully infected themselves. They go from being stealthy, fast, formidable beasts to lumbering seemingly sightless/smell-less/deaf mannequins that simply stand there moaning, waiting for you to bash their skulls in.
Some of the high points of the movie were the performances of Abigail Breslin as Maggie and Arnold as Wade. They do a fine job with what they were given, although I wish Arnold had brought something unique to the role. It looks as if they cast Arnold Schwarzenegger for the sake of casting Arnold Schwarzenegger. George Clooney could have put on the same performance and the film would not have changed at all. The secondary and tertiary characters are for the most part one dimensional. You have the good cop/bad cop duo, and you can tell who is who right away. If you’ve watched your fair share of hollywood westerns, facial hair always denotes the bad guy. Theres the stepmother who is struggling to care about the child that shares no blood with her. The doctor that delivers the bad news to Arnold with all the feeling of an actual doctor they thrust the script into the hands of and said “hey, mind reading this?” The high school friends that wanna go smoke out in the woods around a giant flaming “here we are, come and eat us” bonfire. Yes I keep coming back to the goddam bonfire because its the most ridiculous part of the movie.
Its ending is abrupt yet tense and emotional. The best scenes are the ones with JUST Abigail and Arnold. Thats what this movie should have been. Scrap the world in repair…keep it post apocalyptic and have it be a daddy daughter duo surviving and dealing with the daughters unfortunate infection. Now that sounds VERY close to the plot of the game The Last of Us, well…shut up….that was a good damn game, and if thats what they were going for with this…and you get pangs of Joel and Ellie all throughout this movie…then they should have been more blatant with the influences. It may have made for a better movie.
As someone who regularly debates what to do in a zombie apocalypse with my co-GBR contributors and friends, this movie doesn’t follow any cohesive rules and the structure of how the zombie virus works is just a mess. The punch has been taken out of zombie infection by making it an illness instead of a monstrous plague. They want you to believe its still a horrific affliction, telling of quarantine zones being basically big pens where the infected are piled together to devour each other. They do away with the people beginning to turn by giving them an injection that kills them in a horrifically painful manner. WHAT??? How about the tried and true, shoot them in the head??? Why torture them even more? They talk up the disease as something terrible yet day to day it seems like something you should just be sad over instead of being frightened. At one point Arnold gets in a brawl with the cops trying to defend his daughter, when she appears looking like a goddam demon, black veins, white eyes and crusty bloody skin, telling the officers that she’s fine and they should leave…AND THEY DO! What the crapping crap is going on!?! The afore mentioned teen friend begins to act strangely and a full swat force appears out of nowhere to haul him away, yet Barney 5 and his partner Officer Moustache McBadcop come by themselves for Maggie? At one point, Maggie goes over the edge and eats a fox. Now I know that last sentence is fairly hilarious, but it was actually a disturbing scene. Yet the only thing to come of it was, the stepmother going “Um…I think I’m gonna to stay at my sisters for a while.” I kept waiting for Arnold to drive Abigail to a Zombie support group, where they could all sit in a circle and share. “Hi, my name is Maggie and I’m a zombie”
After watching this movie, my general feelings towards it were ‘Hmm…that was alright’. But the more I think about it and the more I write this review the more I just can’t stand behind it. Not all zombie movies have to be hoaky, comic-y, or cheesey. There have been serious takes on the genre that have worked well. This just isn’t one of them. The zombie element seems forced. I picture a room full of suits telling a poor meek screenwriter that his heartfelt drama of a family dealing with terminal illness needs to be jazzed up and OH, lets make her a ZOMBIE! Those are in fashion right now! What? This is a story close to your heart and may be a commentary on something you may have experienced? Screw that! Have you SEEN the numbers Walking Dead is bringing in? How could this NOT be a good idea?
Strong performances by its two leads.
The film has a strong visual style that is fitting for a zombie film.
Brings nothing new to the zombie genre.
Arnold's performance, while strong, is completely interchangeable
Slowly paced and not in a good way.
Has trouble determining what kind of zombie movie it is.
That goddam bonfire scene!