I have to say there were several times during the watching of the new zombie flick Maggie that I wanted Arnie to go all Terminator on someone’s ass. And to be honest, the fact that this is a much more subdued Schwarzenegger might be the genius of the movie itself.
When you’re one of the most recognizable action heroes in movie history, it’s hard to get respect in a movie that is proving to have more heart than muscle. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays against standard casting as loving father Wade, to daughter Maggie– a daughter who has become infected by a virus (aptly called the Necroambulist virus– which literally means the walking dead) that will slowly turn her into a flesh-eating zombie. It’s a slow burn, and definitely not standard zombie fair. Take out the word zombie and replace it with cancer, and you’ll get a better sense of the pace of the film. But that’s not a bad thing.
Abigail Breslin plays Arnold’s daughter Maggie. Abigail is no neophyte when it comes to zombie pop culture (she played Little Rock in the smash hit Zombieland) and she’s come a long way in the acting department (you might remember her in the title role as Little Miss Sunshine). Being bitten by an infected is a death sentence, and the ER doctor does Wade and their family doctor a huge favor by letting Wade take Maggie to live out her remaining eight weeks (the full incubation period) at home, instead of being sent immediately to “quarantine” as per the law.
At home, life just never gets past Maggie’s inevitable “turning” and ultimate demise. Maggie’s stepmother Caroline (Joely Richardson) is wary of the very real danger Maggie poses, and sends her own two younger children to stay at her sister’s, leaving herself and Wade to watch the slow decline of his daughter.
Reports of the horrors of “quarantine” reach Maggie and her friends during a campfire outing, and another infected friend explains he would rather blow his brains out than be taken there. During a doctor’s visit, Wade also learns of the horrors of quarantine, where the infected are given a cocktail of drugs which kills them slowly and painfully. His recommendation to Wade is to “take care of it himself” – quickly and painlessly.
That’s the setup. As mentioned, this is not a typical zombie movie. The violence and gore factor go nowhere past PG-13 (although there’s a cringe-worthy swing accident), and Arnold does dispatch three zombies in the first half hour (one in the first five minutes, as if to remind us that this is still a guy big enough to snap a neck using that thin piece of wood they attach to bathroom keys in gas station rest rooms).
I liked Maggie very much. Arnold shows some real acting skill, and Abigail is brilliant.
By contrast, I’ve read some criticisms of this movie, with reviewers complaining that it was not a zombie movie at all, just a drama about a loved one dying of a disease. Come to think of it, these are probably the very same people who complain that all zombie movies are alike.