It is the age of zombies and vampires in the cinema. It is the age of apocalypse and world destruction. When almost every aspect and nuance of zombies and apocalypse have been portrayed on the big screen, director Henry Hobson attempts to tell a story of his own in less suspenseful and violent, but more heartfelt and emotional, way. With Maggie, is Hobson’s take a convincing and powerful one? Or does Maggie fall into being forgettable and mediocre?
The movie opens with a girl’s voice asking her father not to come for her. Then she tells him she’s sorry and that she loves him. The film then shows clips of events after a massive outbreak of zombie-like disease. People are also burning their crops, believing that they help spread the virus. Finally appears Wade Vogel (Arnold Schwarzenegger). He is taking her daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin) back home with him. Constantly scratching the sore on her arm, Maggie is among the infected. She is still in the early stage of infection and her father is quite optimistic with her case.
But Maggie comes home terrified and unsure of herself. Her stepmother, wanting her siblings to be not contaminated with the contagious virus, tries to be warm to her but ends up scared and confused. Just when she thought she can finally enjoy the privileges of adulthood, her malady intensified, forcing Maggie into an action that will tore both her and her father’s hearts.
Unlike other films of similar genre, Henry Hobson takes a deliberate step of cutting the gore and violence in Maggie. In fact, he employs a more realistic approach to such dire situation. Instead of having people mercilessly killing each other to survive, he portrays a family caught between the desire of staying together and fear of giving up one to save everyone else. He adds more drama and tension to such theme. However, he seems quite unsuccessful as the film turns out flat and contrite. The musical score is perfect as it heightens the suspense, but the lazy sequence and the drab, dark and sad setting only suck the life out of the movie. The first third of the movie is an absolute boredom and so does the second, and hell, up to the near end of the film. The last ten minutes is perhaps the only magical and terrifying moment in the film, when zombie Maggie planted a gentle kiss on his father’s forehead. Afterwards, I could only give out sigh of relief that the film had finally come to an end.
Perhaps, Hobson tried to recreate some moments in the hit television series The Walking Dead. Certainly, the movie is reminiscent of some episodes in the TV drama when the characters face less danger but more terrifying and heart-wrenching decisions. These are character development segments and people behind The Walking Dead are genius in overwhelming the audience with conflicting emotions. But Hobson fails to do so in Maggie. The characters are foreign and they are hard to root for despite their tragic situation. Hence, the movie appears unconvincing, unmoving and irrelevant. Yes, there are lessons of love and life in the film, but The Walking Dead has more to offer and you do not have to pay the cinema price to get them.
Breslin’s performance is the only salvation for the film. The 19-year-old actress is brilliant in bringing out the right mix of terror and vulnerability. She is tender and afraid at times as she grapples with her conditions, but brave and strong at other times as she tries to keep her family together. Being deprived of the joys of her womanhood, she can flawlessly solicit sympathy from us and we can easily celebrate with her when one opportunity comes. Schwarzenegger also delivered well as he projected certain openness and weakness behind his rough exterior. It is contrary to most of his action roles, but he is equally good. But for me, Breslin stole the show and she is the lone magnet that pulled audience to watch the entirety of the film.
Maggie succeeds in being a poor derivative of some of the lethargic character development episodes of The Walking Dead. It is dull from beginning to end and only Breslin’s natural and powerful performance saved the film from being unwatchable. Unfortunately, I can only give two stars out of five for the movie.