It’s not uncommon for actors to want roles where they play against type, where the actor/actress can show their range and play a different kind of character than the ones they’ve played before. Directors and studios seem to love it too because it’s a good marketing tool to say, “You’ll never believe what [BLANK] does in this movie! Only in theaters this weekend!” There are tons of examples of this working. There are lots more where it does not (you’re the best Keanu!).
After barely hanging on through the new zombie film Maggie, from director Henry Hobson, it’s clear that Arnold Schwarzenegger should never, ever play against type. Without a bazooka in his hands, flying a helicopter into a jungle dense with aliens trying to kill him, while some ex-soviet spies kidnap his family and force him to fight through a Mortal Kombat style tournament Arnold seems lost. Not that he’s given an awful lot to work with here either. Maggie is the most self-serious, needlessly dramatic, over wrought piece of junk to grace the screens (mostly those at home; thanks VOD?) in a long time.
Here are the basics. The movie begins in a post disease era where a sickness called “Necroambulis” has taken over human and plant alike. In humans this turns the subject into a ravenous zombie. In plants, they wither and can’t reproduce meaning all farmers have to burn their crops. Arnold is one of these farmers (strike one) who goes to rescue his petulant teenage daughter from the hellscape of Kansas City and then brings her home with a zombie bite in tow. See, in this universe the medical people have decided that because the Zombieitis is a slow moving disease (6-8 weeks for incubation), folks who are bitten should be allowed to stay at home with their families before they have to voluntarily come back in for quarantine (strike two). Of course, NOOOOOO one sees any way in which that could go wrong.
What follows for the next solid hour is his daughter, the eponymous Maggie, having depressing conversations about her deteriorating state with everyone in town. She also yells at her stepmom, kisses a boy who has the zombie bite too, and generally sits around looking sullen and wearing sunglasses. There is so much action here. Like when the family SITS AT THE TABLE TO EAT DINNER. Or how about when Arnold gets to QUIETLY CONTEMPLATE HIS ACTIONS. Woo, not sure I can take much more. Oh, well how could I forget the TEENAGERS SITTING QUIETLY AROUND A CAMPFIRE DISCUSSING THE ETHICS OF REOPENING SCHOOL DURING AN EPIDEMIC. (Strikes 3-6, that’s 2/3rds of an inning guys. They’re out.)
There are, ostensibly, scenes of import in this movie. There are neighbors who attempted to keep their family from quarantine to almost disastrous results; not that Arnold notices the irony in that before he attempts to do the same. There are a couple of rendezvous with the police who tell him (rather intelligently) to get his infected and ever sicker daughter to quarantine. There’s even a gun that Arnold gets to fire one time at, of all things, a wounded fox his daughter tried to eat. All of this is centered around writing more grim than anything the visual effects team could come up with. Seriously, if I wanted more self-serious conversations about a zombie apocalypse around a campfire I would still watch The Walking Dead. This movie was exhausting and slow, like waiting to be run over by a road roller.
Every interaction between characters ends tepidly and for a supposed “thriller drama,” there are absolutely no stakes in this film whatsoever. When there are no stakes, the landscape is bleak, all of the teen protagonists are whiny self-important dolts, and you force ARNOLD FREAKIN’ SCHWARZENEGGER to stand around trying to act without any explosions, predators, or even a tiny twin around, why even make a movie at all?
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