Maggie explores the all-too familiar story of a loved one who gets infected by, in this case, what's been dubbed as the "necroambulist virus" by the media. It's a virus that will essentially turn someone into a zombie, only it takes something more along the lines of eight weeks than it does a few seconds, or a few hours. This is what sets Maggie apart from all the other zombie movies, or at least that's how it tries to differentiate itself from all the other zombie movies. The thought process is that by greatly prolonging the inevitable progression of the 'turning' experience would allow more time to explore the psychological effects it would have on a family, and on the zombie in waiting. It still feels like familiar territory though.
In this case Wade Vogel (Arnold Schwarzenegger) spent two weeks tracking his daughter down, Maggie Vogel (Abigail Breslin) after she ran away to spare her family any pain or danger that she would inflict on them. Psychologically or physically, probably both. Whether it was intentional or not. Only Wade isn't having any of it because of a promise he made to her mother that he'd protect her, no matter what. Sort of a hard promise to keep. No? So Wade takes Maggie back home and her two younger step-siblings leave the house to go stay with their aunt, while Wade stays at home with Maggie for her last days. Caroline (Joely Richardson), her step-mother, is there for support as well. Knowing that time is running out everyone tries to make the best out of a bad situation, but the inescapable outcome of Maggie's situation is forever looming and relentlessly approaching the father who knows what he has to do, but doesn't know if he can.
While Maggie was a much slower placed and slightly more unique approach to the zombie genre, it didn't really bring anything new to the table that zombie fans haven't already seen before. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Abigail Breslin were both strong in their performances. Arnold was more subtle than usual, and it worked well for him. Abigail was sympathetic without being irritating, she didn't play up her situation for pity the way most victims do either. I'm looking at you The Walking Dead. The way Maggie visually transformed throughout the movie was also done well, as her body slowly deteriorated away. It's basically a zombie movie in slow motion. It could even be argued that Maggie is more of an analogy for hiv than it is a zombie movie.
I got the distinct impression that Henry Hobson (a first time director) is a big fan on Terrence Malick too. Maggie had an extremely similar vibe to a Malick movie. There were a lot of shallow focus shots and panoramic shots, which were nice, but he needed to show a bit more restraint towards the end. The grey desaturated color palette was extremely dreary too. Maggie is not nearly as vibrant as these pictures would have you believe. I feel like Henry Hobson was more concerned with being 'artsy' in Maggie than he was with telling a compelling and engaging story while exploring the pathos of these emotionally conflicted characters. There's nothing wrong with trying to be 'artsy', but you have to balance it out with the story and make sure it elevates the movie, instead of it feeling overly indulgent.
Wade is a loving and protective father and it's easy to empathize with his plight, but my sympathy could only go so far. Because Wade is also a man who knowingly endangers others simply because he hasn't got the nerve to do what needs to be done. You know the cliche from practically every zombie movie ever. There's always someone who should be put down, there's always someone who can't bring themselves to do it, and something bad happens. As sure as the sun rises. This isn't a 'Walking Dead' scenario where most of the world has been decimated by this virus. It's something that's fairly under control, so there are a lot of innocent people that Wade is risking because of his selfishness. His understandable selfishness, but selfishness nonetheless.
The fact that the police would even let Maggie stay home knowing that she's infected with such a deadly, contagious and unpredictable 'virus' defies belief. Cliches aside though, Maggie is a slightly more thoughtful zombie movie than most others are, and there's some genuinely funny and tender moments in there as well. But it's still a vague, unfocused and predictable zombie movie that focuses more on the unfolding emotional drama than it does on bloody and marauding zombies. It is a PG zombie movie after all, so if you're looking for some bloody zombie action, then keep on looking, because you won't find it here. If you're looking for a somewhat more introspective zombie movie, then this movie might be just the ticket for you. But not me.
Written by - The Sentry - 07/12/2015