Schwarzenegger? Zombies? I’m in! When I read the synopsis to Maggie I did what every person under the age of 50 does in 2015–I pulled up YouTube and found the trailer and was immediately intrigued.
The zombie genre has been explored from every angle possibly imaginable, yet Maggie looked…fresh. (Sorry, no more zombie puns). Reminiscent of the best video game I’ve played in the last decade, “The Last of Us,” Maggie looked to tell the tale of a father struggling to save his infected child from the dangers of a world paranoid of a new viral outbreak that leaves humans as a cannibalistic shell. Has the zombie genre been played out? Maybe. Nonetheless, I entered the theatre with high hopes.
Within minutes of the opening titles, the film featured a typical jump scare expected from anything that comes within 100 yards of the word zombie. I let out an audible groan that turned some heads. As I slunk deeper in my chair to avoid the shame I took note that tropes can be good and kept my mind open – I’m glad I did.
Maggie is not a zombie film in the way big-budget blockbusters define the zed word. Instead it takes the viewer back to the roots of the genre. George A. Romero used zombies as a vehicle for social commentary – whether it is focused on consumerism or xenophobia. All the great films in the genre follow suit. It is a callback to the idea of using a zombie virus as representation of any terminal illness that might rip a child from the clutches of her father at an all too early age.
The film is driven by the performance of the two leads–Wade (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Maggie (Abigail Breslin) and their onscreen chemistry makes the story that much more heartbreaking. This is Schwarzenegger as you have never seen him before. Gone are the days of catchy one-liners and flexed pecs. Arnold has RANGE man! His portrayal of Wade is brilliantly human and subdued – the everyman, worn down by a cruel life and an even crueler world.
Be careful viewers, a part of your childhood might die when you see that first tear fall from the eye of the former Terminator. The former governor of California exposes a side of himself previously unseen and it is moving. Breslin, of course, is brilliant as the victim of an illness that has taken everything from her and left her shunned. The former Oscar nominee shows the audience the mind of a teenager facing their inevitable death with a grace that Shailene Woodley wishes she could have touched.
Hobson’s bleak color palate is a hauntingly beautiful reminder that Maggie has no hope for survival and she must live out her days in fear of the community that in turn fears her. It is a faded picture of the family life they once shared before the world went to hell. It’s almost as if the only thing they have left in the world is each other; however, they are constantly reminded of the past. The most moving scenes come when Wade and Maggie joke about Maggie’s step-mom’s cooking and the laughter abruptly ends or when Wade shares stories of how her birth mother was a bookworm and Maggie takes after her.
The genre has taught the viewer to expect the other shoe to drop at any moment and Maggie to turn on Wade, but that never happens. Instead the moment finally comes where Maggie must make the choice that Wade cannot bear to make himself.
You had me gripped Hobson! Right up until the end and that’s where you lost me. Everyone should see this film so I won’t give it away but the final five minutes deflates all the drama and tension built so well for the first ninety. Regardless, I hope to see more from Hobson in the near future.
In theaters May 8th.
Written by: Craig Sherwood