In the world of Maggie, the zombie apocalypse seems to be subsiding, but stray turned still roam the countryside as society tries to get back up on its feet. Another interesting wrinkle is that once infected it often takes weeks for someone to turn, and those that are seemed to be allowed to stay in society so they can “die” on their own terms. This would be interesting if the film also didn’t want to use the zombie for scare tactics and have characters act completely stupid in the face of the obvious.
Now I know Maggie is trying to get at the heart of what it must be like to let someone go that you love, it is a cancer allegory, but I’ve seen plenty of works that handle this sadness much, much better; this one just happens to have a zombie paint job. And while that theme of loss and letting go seems like a rich topic for the film, it doesn’t really embrace that until the very end, while circumventing situations that could have been interesting to explore. Especially when the film’s logic makes room for things that it also thinks is bad.
Why can’t Maggie stay with her half-siblings for a while and say good-bye? They are out the door the instant she is home, and instead this time is given over to a neighbor plot that serves no purpose other than give us a sad zombie encounter. Yes, they are trying to show how hard it is to let go of your family when they are infected, but this isn’t something hard to grasp. We didn’t need a 15 minute sub plot about it. The most interesting element of the film is when Maggie hangs out with a group of friends and the film has a chance to address the weirdness of infected being allowed to remain a part of society. The film also has another great idea in that there is another friend who is also infected, and also happens to be Maggie’s ex of some sort. I would have much rather had the film explore this dynamic deeper and over the course of the film, but it ultimately feels like filler for the days that Schwarzenegger couldn’t be on the set. Yeah, they use the ex to set up how scary being taken away to quarantine is, but we already got the gist of that in the kids’ conversations. Another unnecessary plot reminder is made out of a potentially interesting world building opportunity.
Also, how many times do we need a scene introducing a possible out for the infection, only to say in the same scene, every time, that you shouldn’t do that?
Schwarzenegger is the other big wrinkle to Maggie’s release, and while he is perfectly fine in subdued fatherly role, it feels like stunt casting in the end. I’m glad the guy is showing some range and chops here, but he is almost distracting in a film that doesn’t take advantage of anything the actor is known for otherwise. I’m all for Schwarzenegger showing us a softer side, but I also wouldn’t mind seeing a more diverse part for him to take. Abigail Breslin is also good as the title, turning, Maggie, and any issues I have with the role has much more to do with the script playing fast and loose with it’s own rules for the sake of the moment. Breslin show’s some creepiness during brief moments when she is allowed to do so, but the film shies away from most of its bigger moments.
Maggie is an interesting idea squandered on a pretty bad script. The film doesn’t know what it wants to be and doesn’t make the most out of its cast either. The film does have some interesting camera work while working around its limited budget effects wise, but the filmmaking wasn’t enough to elevate me above the poor storytelling. Maggie feels like it wants to be this introspective character drama about zombies, but it’s sadly full of the tips of interesting spins on the genre, that sadly doesn’t know what to do beyond introducing them.