Ya know, it’s not every day that one would say “man that Schwarzenegger movie was depressing”, unless it was Batman and Robin or some other really bad movie he was in that kinda led to a downturn in his career. Maggie is definitely depressing. I’m not saying it’s bad because it’s depressing. The fact that it provokes major feels is what makes it so good, and I’m surprised this movie was kinda overlooked, but I guess that’s to be expected when it was made to be an indie film, playing in select theaters, and also on video-on-demand services, in its initial release before arriving on home video, yet a bunch of indie movies do get wider releases after word of mouth and stuff. Shows what I know, I guess.
Aside from The Expendables movies and a few other movies, Arnold Schwarzenegger has definitely been getting back into the spotlight. While I haven’t seen Terminator: Genisys (which I may be kinda glad that I haven’t, from what I heard about it), it’s kind of a shame that this movie didn’t get as much exposure as that one, but then again, indie movie, so kinda low-key thing here. Even when he’s approaching 70, he still does action films, but it’s pretty neat that they also have some kinda tongue-in-cheek tone regarding his age, career, and other stuff. This movie, however, really showcases that he’s capable of more than that, that he’s actually able to do more than shooty shooty bang bang, and when you think about it, even his older movies, depending on which ones of course, do have some depth to them, and this one especially is no exception. Also don’t forget he’s done comedy films too, so he can be funny as well.
Maggie is about a guy named Wade (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who also produces this film) and his daughter named Maggie (played by Abigail Breslin). Living with them is Wade’s current wife and Maggie’s stepmother Caroline (played by Joely Richardson) and Maggie’s half-siblings. Unfortunately, the little kids have to leave due to Maggie being infected by a “necroambulist virus” (I’ll get to that later), which will turn her into a zombie and could possibly endanger the kids, leaving just Wade, Caroline (for most of the film until she leaves when it gets dangerous), and Maggie in the house for most of the film. What follows is a series of events that will test their resolve in living in a post-apocalyptic world in which a virus is barely under control and what they must do to survive, live, and protect what’s theirs as well as themselves, and the eventuality of “dealing” with someone close to them that could kill them due to circumstances beyond their control that affect them.
While there are A LOT of zombie stories out there, zombies being all the rage and everything and some say they’ll go the way of the vampires in that they’ll become tired and dated or something, it’s hard to make some zombie stories, regardless of medium, seem fresh and new. Maggie does tread on some familiar territory, obviously some would say The Walking Dead, but I think also The Last of Us too. In fact, this movie is probably the closest we’ll get to a movie version of The Last of Us, before an actual movie version of The Last of Us happens, if what I hear is true (which I hope isn’t, and I don’t care if Sam Raimi is doing it). The bond between Wade and his daughter Maggie remind me a lot of Joel and Ellie from The Last of Us, only difference being that Joel and Ellie eventually grew to like each other and traveling together, while Wade and Maggie already have a good yet kinda strained bond which is made even harder for them due to their sudden predicament and are living in one place.
The only gripes I have with this movie are the beginning and the overall backstory of the film. The movie starts off with Maggie suddenly leaving her house past curfew and getting into a city, which leads to her getting infected. Why did she leave her house at all? I mean, the world has apparently either already gone to shit or about to go to shit, there’s zombies in places, including that city, so why would she go there? I guess because she’s a kid and kids get into trouble? I don’t know. As for the backstory, what exactly caused this “necroambulist virus”? What is it? Why is it called “necroambulist” (I’m guessing the prefix “necro” meaning dead, but still)? Where does it come from? What year does this movie take place in? How far does the virus spread? At least other zombie stories, including recent ones like The Last of Us and The Walking Dead, give some idea as to what the viruses are, what the timeline of events are, and what the world is like. Here, there’s just no explanation. I get that this movie is more of a character study, a serious drama and all that in the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic world, but it’d be nice if there was more background to it. Oh and Maggie’s real mom, Wade’s previous wife, is also dead before the story, so nice to know Disney isn’t the only one with the “dead parent trope” in stories.
I bet some people were probably thinking this would be Schwarzenegger vs. zombies in a action-adventure story. Nope. This is actually a dramatic horror movie this time around that is presented and should be taken as such, while there is also some zombie-killing, but done in the way that makes you wonder “Jesus, what are we becoming” type of mindset or just simply something that’s done in order to survive that’s typical with other recent zombie stories. There were some moments where I almost cried. Yeah, a Schwarzenegger movie almost made me cry. The two main leads manage to pull off such great performances and I actually thought these two bonded really well. They really were doing the job of portraying father and daughter very good, as well as them dealing with the situation of Maggie being infected and what may have to be done with her.
Wade and his family are living the simple, quiet life, which is horrifyingly turned upside-down when Maggie is infected. In this world, people who are infected are given a couple of options: stay in quarantine (which is bad, according to this film, due to terrible living and health conditions), stay at home until the authorities come to take them to quarantine, be given a serum which will kill the infected and is also painful, or another method that one doctor says to Wade is to “make it quick”. The eventuality of resolving this situation is what drives this movie and showcases how it affects everyone. They all try to live on with their lives, but deep down they know something has to be done, and it won’t be pleasant. Wade tries to be a stoic, strong-willed man while also being a good husband and father, who made a promise to his deceased wife that he would protect their daughter, but he has a vulnerability to him that he can’t hold back forever. He’s able to hold his own in a fight with both zombies and humans, but also knows he can’t fight off everything and everyone, and that fighting too much with the authorities (some of whom are sympathetic to Wade’s situation) could not only lead to Maggie’s death but also his own. Maggie tries to continue a normal life, hanging out with friends, bonding with her family, and even crushing and kissing a boy (sadly he’s infected too that gets taken to quarantine) but the fact that she’s infected, could turn into a zombie soon and hurt her family, and that the world has gone to shit, takes a serious toll on her physical and mental health, yet she’s able to stay strong for herself and her dad, which kinda pays off for her in the end, however sad it is.
I was amazed to find out that this was actually the cinematic debut of the director Henry Hobson, who oddly enough did title cards for other films as well as The Last of Us, which explains why it seems so similar to that game. John Scott III’s script is well-written and the dialogue feels so real and well-delivered by the actors, making it pretty relatable and provoking some major feels. The performances are top-notch as well, not just in line delivery but also movement and facial expressions. This movie is definitely worth watching, regardless of how you may feel towards zombies in general, and I hope to see more serious dramatic movies from Arnold Schwarzenegger, and whatever else Hobson and Scott create later on in their careers, not to mention this was a standout performance from Breslin. If Stallone is able to pull it off with Creed in 2015 (not to mention winning Golden Globe and probably the Oscar too), then so is Schwarzenegger with this movie in 2015. He is, for lack of a better word, “back”, in probably his best movie to date. Nuff said.