“Dad, you’ve protected me all my life. Now it’s my turn to protect you. There is life with you, not with me.”
When you hear Arnold Schwarzenegger is starring in a zombie film you’re probably expecting a full blown action movie similar to World War Z, but Maggie is the complete opposite. It’s a slow burning drama where zombies slowly convert after being bitten. Schwarzenegger plays a father who is trying to protect his teenage daughter, Maggie (Abigail Breslin), who has been infected with the virus. The film begins with him driving to a hospital where Maggie is being held in quarantine. They allow Wade to take his daughter home so he can spend the last few days with her, but he must promise to bring her back when the virus begins to take full control of her. When they arrive back home her stepmother (Joely Richardson) is waiting for them so Maggie can say goodbye to her siblings before she takes them to her sister’s house to keep them safe. The film basically moves at a very slow pace and it uses this innovative concept as the driving force of the narrative. It tries to introduce a world where the victims are still considered as people and not simply lifeless zombies where no one would hesitate to pull the trigger. It may be a fresh twist on the crowded and familiar zombie genre, but I felt it was simply a dull and boring experience that never brought anything interesting to the story other than introducing the unique premise. The cinematography is bleak and dark, but perhaps it’s what works best in this lifeless film.
We’ve seen different approaches taken when it comes to the zombie genre, beginning with the familiar horror genre (Night of the Living Dead), and then explored in action movies (World War Z), comedies (Zombieland), and even in romantic comedies (Warm Bodies), but I don’t think the subject had been approached in the past as a drama where you actually see the toll it takes on the victim and their family. That is where Maggie stands out from the rest of the films in the genre, but unfortunately it doesn’t work because you never feel engaged with these characters. The narrative puts its emphasis on the concept, but leaves out any character development. We get some glimpses of Maggie’s life in a couple of scenes where she goes out with her friends and spends time with her father, but there isn’t much more than that so Maggie doesn’t even work as a character study. It is simply a dull film that tries too hard to be a metaphor about a young girl facing a deadly disease.
The performances in this film have been praised by several critics, but I didn’t find any of them groundbreaking. Breslin is a talented young actress and she delivers a solid role, but her character isn’t given much to work with. Schwarzenegger is attempting something different, and perhaps that is why he is receiving some recognition for his work, but his range continues to be limited and I much prefer him in roles like The Last Stand where he is exploiting and having fun with the action hero stereotypes that made him such a famous star in the first place. Perhaps it was the overall pacing of the film that put me to sleep, but I just never was invested with any of these characters to enjoy the performances.