“Dad, you’ve protected me all your life. Now it’s my turn to protect you. There is life with you, not with me. Don’t come looking for me. I’m safe. I’m fine.” – Maggie Vogel, Maggie (2015).
I was very much looking forward to this one. Although I do enjoy zombie films, they’re all extremely frequent and most of them are the same. Zombie films are usually just action or horror, but I can’t really name all too many that are dramas. Shaun of the Dead (2004) is a comedy so I guess that’s a break from the norm in a way. Everything else is just your standard over-the-top horror film flick. Still, that didn’t seem to be the case for Maggie, and to an extent it’s the reason this film doesn’t work.
Seeing Arnold Schwarzenegger turn his acting career from action to drama is a slightly enjoyable change. He manages to make the leap from genre to genre very well. He did so with a certain grace with Aftermath (2017), a boring albeit charming film with a solid lead from Arnie. But before that, he played the starring role in Maggie, alongside Abigail Breslin as his daughter. To give credit where it is due, the two have some undeniable chemistry throughout. There are some scenes that are definitely better than others in this regard, with a few of the early moments between the two very enjoyable. Unfortunately, my initial excitement of seeing Arnie in a drama role quickly succumbed to the droll and dull cinematography and direction.
The film attempts to show the slow albeit definite deterioration of Maggie, and it does so with a couple of set pieces here and there. They certainly aren’t bad, but they could have been better. As far as zombie films go, it does break a few stereotypes that would be expected of the genre, but doesn’t go far enough in this direction. It effectively deals with a representation of illness, you would be quick to assume comparisons to Still Alice (2014) in that regard. Within film, there’s only so much a director can do to demonstrate and present illness. One way of presenting illness should not be through comically poor direction.
Shaky camera is one thing, but whatever was going on in this film is something completely different. There’s a sense that the film wants to be a hell of a lot more auteur than it has any right to be. With that in mind however we do get to see the exact message of this film. Henry Hobson isn’t a name you’ve heard before, and there’s a clear reason for this. His direction seems to be a style that values camera angles over storytelling. There was arguably some nice direction in earlier parts of the film, mainly showcasing how a zombie fuelled world looks after society survives. It’s an interesting concept that isn’t explored to the point where it creates a lasting impact.
After getting fifteen or so minutes into this film, I had noticed a continuing trend. This trend continues to the very end of the film. Nothing, and I mean literally nothing, happens in this film. With such a core and careful vision of the family life and impact of the illness, Hobson’s direction loses focus on what is really important. It’s all well and good having a message in a film, but this message should not subvert characters or the plot. Hell, after coming back to writing this review, I’ve actually forgotten what the meaning of the film even was. To say it is a forgettable film is an understatement at the very least. Still, at least it attempts to try and have a message, I think.
One of my biggest problems with this film is that it just adds up to nothing at all. Now that’s not to say it isn’t an interesting story, it sort of is in a way. But for the most part it’s hard to enjoy such a great story when it’s bogged down by truly dull and cliche bits of writing. Even with the added spanner of a zombie apocalypse, Maggie is intent on sticking to what every drama does.
A couple of attempted tearjerker moments here and there, but nothing sticks. I’m genuinely quite surprised as to how cliche it becomes considering how unique an idea this story is. Drama and dialogue always go hand in hand. If one of them fails, so does the other. The main problem here then is that the dialogue is uninteresting at best. The cast do their best to work with what they’ve been given, but unfortunately to no avail. With the writing, it could do with a bit of work to say the least.
Well, it’s certainly not the worst film I’ve ever had to watch. I really hate writing about run of the mill films because what is there to honestly say about it? What can I say about a film that doesn’t say anything? No, there’s very little in the way of things to say about Maggie. For all its talented cast, they’re severely let down by a dull script and some very questionable directing at the best of times. Breslin and Schwarzenegger are great, but the rest of the cast and that bloody script really let the two down, who otherwise have some great chemistry throughout.
Still, I do suppose some of that can in fact be put down to the direction. Sometimes if I’m watching a run of the mill film I read a quick overview of the plot. My God, I thought to myself, what a shit show I was in for with Maggie. That’s certainly what I got. Although I can easily and quite happily credit the stellar performances of the two leading cast members, I can’t recommend this simply because of how boring it is. A film, especially a drama about the relationship between a father and daughter, should never be classed as boring. Yet here we are, Maggie shows off a story of deterioration, it’s just too bad my interest deteriorated quicker than the runtime did.