Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abigail Breslin and Joely Richardson
Written by: John Scott 3
Directed by: Henry Hobson
Running Time: 1hr 35mins
WINNER – PAGE International Screenwriting Awards –
NOMINEE – Fangoria Chainsaw Awards – Best Actress (Abigail Breslin)
NOMINEE – Edinburgh International Film Festival – Audience Award (Henry Hudson)
Arnold Schwarzenegger played the role of Wade in the film for $0 after falling in love with the script. – IMDB
“This is the most human story that I’ve ever done, and it’s the most human character that I’ve ever played… I also think it’s the most human zombie movie that’s ever been done.” Arnold Schwarzenegger – Under the Radar
“…although it was written by John Scott 3, what’s inspiring about Maggie is that it suggests a more adult, humane take on the genre. It’s more unpredictable. So I was immediately intrigued by that possibility. It’s a more relatable and understandable variation on the zombie story. It’s essentially a father-daughter story at its heart.” Henry Hobson – Cineworld
Back in 2015, Arnold Schwarzenegger starring in a zombie movie might have seemed like a surefire box office hit. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case and the film MAGGIE managed to bring in only a little over $1.5 million worldwide. This is likely due to the fact that the film wasn’t the kind of rollercoaster ride that audiences expected. Rather than featuring Schwarzenegger as a hero battling an unstoppable army of the undead, the film is more of a drama exploring the themes of terminal illness and the loss of those dear to us. While it has a zombie storyline at its center, MAGGIE’s script focuses more on character development and emotion than violence and gore. Basically, the elements that make the movie so effective are also the characteristics that may have caused its downfall. A more dramatic take on the “Living Dead genre,” the script succeeds at being a more realistic and personal interpretation of the zombie apocalypse while also giving viewers a Schwarzenegger performance unlike any he has given before.
The film takes place in a world overrun by a virus called Necroambulism, which causes people who are affected to slowly transform into the walking dead, hungry for the taste of human flesh. As the movie opens, a young teen, Maggie, played by Oscar nominee Abigail Breslin, has already been infected by the bite of a zombie and, to protect her family, runs away. After her father, Wade, played by Schwarzenegger, finds her, his overall need to protect his daughter forces him to take Maggie home, where he can keep a closer eye on her during the long and emotionally painful transformation. This, of course, isn’t a good idea as there is no cure for the virus, but rumors of people being treated badly in quarantine leave Wade with no choice.
Director Harry Hobson does an amazing job of giving viewers something new in the Zombie genre. Along with cinematographer Lukas Ettlin and composer David Wingo, they have created a very somber and atmospheric tone where the emotion is front and center. This is a more dramatic movie than the viewer will expect and a moviegoing experience that would do better in an arthouse setting than that of a mainstream theatre.
If the plot of MAGGIE sounds familiar, it’s because the situation is one that viewers have seen in almost every zombie movie or TV show that came before it – The moment when a character is bitten and those around him/her must come to terms with killing them before they turn. Inevitably, the loved ones will hear the following words from someone who wishes to put the injured down: “It’s not them anymore.” This time out, the difference is that it isn’t just an element of the story but actually the main plot point. The script by John Scott 3 concentrates on the slow transformation the virus puts a person through, as well as the emotions that their loved ones go through while they can do nothing but sit back and watch. By writing the transformation into a slower (6 to 8 weeks) process, the script emphasizes the sorrow and pain that the people involved are experiencing. It’s not about shock value, gore and jump scares. This is a deeper and much more effective exploration of Wade’s feelings towards his daughter, who must succumb to a virus that will change her into someone unrecognizable while also causing her immense emotional pain.
This is also a film that takes on both sides of the story by, at times, shifting the focus to Maggie’s perspective and exploring her internal feelings as the one who knows that her life is almost over and cannot do anything to stop it. Those expecting a fast-paced horror film, be aware, this is not that movie.
For those worried about whether Schwarzenegger has it in him for a more dramatic role like this, all I can say is “YES.” If the distributors had been smarter in the handling of MAGGIE, we might have seen a lot of award considerations for his performance (Imagine the Oscar race that year with Stallone nominated as supporting actor for CREED and Schwarzenegger as lead actor for MAGGIE. How crazy would that have been? Talk about a ratings boost.). Schwarzenegger fully disappears into the character of Wade and is extremely convincing as a man desperate to keep his family safe while riddled with guilt for failing to protect his daughter from the infection. The strength and power that viewers are used to him showing in his more popular films are of little use to help Maggie. He can only watch as she slowly turns. As an actor used to playing the bigger-than-life hero, he gives a gentler performance that feels genuine in every way. It’s unexpected and moving and deserves to be seen by more people (especially his fans).
Most will see Schwarzenegger’s Wade as the lead character who drives the film forward, but Breslin’s Maggie is just as important to the story. One character’s feelings never take precedence over the other and the concentration on both characters within their individual minds mixed with their relationship to each other is what gives the movie its overall heart. Both actors play off each other incredibly well, sharing a genuine father-daughter relationship, which is incredibly heartbreaking at times. Breslin does a great job playing the suffering teen trapped in a hopeless situation, effectively portraying feelings of loneliness, isolation and fear. She plays the soon-to-be zombie as a character that viewers will sympathize with and wish they could save themselves. Unfortunately, saving someone in this situation eventually means putting them down.
T2: JUDGEMENT DAY may be Schwarzenegger’s best film, but Maggie offers his best performance. A zombie film that isn’t the same as others, it’s an effectively emotional experience that fits more in the genre of drama than horror and if the viewer can open their mind to this, they will be in for an unexpected movie-watching experience.
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