Friday, May 8, 2015

Maggie Theatrical/On Demand Review

Arnold Schwarzenegger stars along side Abigail Breslin, who plays his daughter and Joely Richardson, who plays his second wife in the drama Maggie. While Maggie has the typical elements that appear in zombie horror films like slow moving zombies that eat human flesh, a person going into a convenience store alone when one knows anytime characters split up in horror films, usually something bad is going to happen. It also has apocalyptic scenes of cities smoldering in the horizon and there is even a reference to I guess one could say might be "prayer" even though the word God is not used. Instead it is a variation on the "no one is listening" line used in some zombie films like John Leguizamo's quip in George A. Romero's Land of the Dead, where his character says, "God left the phone off the hook." No one ever says the word "zombie" either, which I think would have been refreshing to hear for a change in a zombie film, especially a drama like this. Instead they are called the "infected," which seems kind of lame since the term is used already in better films and television, hence my reason for thinking they should drop the pretentiousness and just call it what it is, a zombie. There is a scene of men wearing gas masks and armed with automatic weapons breaking through a door as martial law has been declared due to the global pandemic and there are people who try to shelter the infected despite the danger because they hope for a touch of humanity to still be within their loved ones and there is lots and lots of brooding and the typical radio broadcasts revealing tidbits about what is going on in the world beyond the scope of our core characters. Yet despite all these common traits, Maggie is really a tragic drama about loss that could have made a great one shot  set of webisodes for The Walking Dead even though The Walking Dead has covered similar territory with greater depth and a lot more action and gore than anything you will see here.
Yet as long as you know what you are getting into, I think Maggie is an okay film though make no mistake, this is a bleak story. Schwarzenegger's character of a father who wants to savor every last moment with his doomed daughter even after it seems everyone has deserted him has moments that are genuinely emotional even though I think Abigail Breslin carried Schwarzenegger a bit and made him look good, but Arnold is a father and so he can in so much of his range will let him, show a gentler side most people have never seen before because he is a father in real life. It is a good move on his part and I hope he continues to explore different kinds of roles outside of his action pictures and the comedy collaborations he did with Ivan Reitman. At times the film is a bit slow and there are a few elements that could have been more interesting if they were hinted at instead of just building something up that ultimately feels anticlimactic at times.
The skies are always overcast and there is often scenes with smoke in the horizon as well as fires and abandoned homes with messages left behind for whoever reads them. The conclusion though bleak is not as frustrating than the feeling that the ending seems flat and more could have been done as a whole to make the film get across it's points in a more interesting way. Then there are inconsistencies too like what appears to be a reinforced metal or heavy duty wood door with a big bolt across it and yet the rest of the house has wide open widows one could walk through, which is almost as bad as honking a horn in a zombie film. At times I felt that certain things just would not happen like parents allowing high school age children to hangout outside in the open at night with infected people who could turn very soon just so they can have one last night out. I mean if I had a child, I wouldn't let my kids out when the dead could be anywhere. Caveats aside however, Maggie at least tries to reach for something different, but whether or not their reach exceeded their grasp is at best extremely relative. 

Maggie is now playing at select theaters and is available for rental on demand.

ADDENDUM: I do not usually state things like this because once I have reviewed a film then that is it, but sometimes after viewing a picture, it sticks with you and so I gave it a second look and upon screening it a second time, I have to state that Maggie plays better upon second viewing and I do think it deserves a place among one's zombie horror collection provided one realizes that this is still a drama and probably one of the bleakest films I have ever seen since Lars Von Trier's Melancholia. Despite the PG-13 rating, I highly recommend parental guidance before, during and or after viewing Maggie on the big screen or small. Adults who fantasize about the zombie apocalypse and think of it as some kind of survival adventure should see Maggie if only to get into one's mind that survival under such circumstances would be about as likely and fun as trying to survive nuclear fallout after a war. Worse than anything you may have seen dramatized before. So put the video games down for two hours and prepare for a sobering reality check and be thankful it was just a movie.

(C) Copyright 2015 By Mark A. Rivera
All Rights Reserved.