Arnold Schwarzenegger misread the market when he returned to acting after the end of his political career. He came in expecting that the box office would light on fire as the biggest action movie star of them all would return, triumphant, to lead the box office once again. Unfortunately tastes have changed and the man most associated with playing a robot from the future would wind up in successive flops leading up to one of 2015’s biggest in Terminator: Genisys.
Oddly enough the one film, had it been his return to acting, would’ve reframed the narrative in a significant way. Instead of it being the final stand of an actor trying to remain relevant it would’ve been a former box office megastar coming back for a second act far different than the first. Schwarzenegger’s failure to recapture the glory days of his youth amounted to a new generation seeing an aged star and passing. Arnold the action hero may have appealed to those in their mid 30s and older but to a younger generation it was their iron pumping grandfather trying to save the day.
Maggie, one of the best films of 2015, wound up toiling between a limited theatrical run and video on demand because of the failure of Schwarzenegger to find box office glory all around. It’s a shame because it’s a fresh, interesting take on the zombie genre with a fresh, interesting take from Schwarzenegger as an actor.
Wade (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a farmer who has a daughter from a previous marriage (Abigail Breslin) living with his new wife and kids. His daughter is infected by a zombie virus that is marginally under control but unlike in regular zombie films there’s a much longer time before the infected becomes the walking dead. It’s crueler this way as Wade is rendered impotent as the last connection to his previous family has a small window before death. Thus he’s just a man trying to delay the inevitable, determined not to let her go but not let her hurt his family either.
It’s a brilliant film because it deals with something that zombie films never do because of the extended time scale before the turn: loss. Wade doesn’t know how to let go of his little girl as she progresses in her transition to becoming a zombie. It’s a brilliant turn of acting by Schwarzenegger as this is the sort of character his entire action career has been opposite. In a normal role that he would’ve taken Wade would be a scientist racing for a cure, the film’s climactic finale being him fighting through a zombie horde to save his daughter and prevent it from happening. Instead we have Wade as a man unable to change what is happening; he has a connection with his daughter that’s about to end and there’s nothing he can do to save it.
It’s a brilliant choice for Arnold in the lead because this impotence of Wade to save his daughter, to watch as she further moves towards becoming a zombie, is such a daring turn by the one time Austrian Oak. We want to think that Wade will find a way to save his daughter, that Arnold will get a happy ending like he almost always does, but the film doesn’t allow this. It’s a great casting against type to have Schwarzenegger in this film; it makes the film more heart breaking in its final moments.
Maggie is a genre film trying not to be one; if this had been about a disease that’s incurable, and Wade left to say goodbye, it would be one thing. The zombie factor makes it that much more interesting because the genre has always been about trying to survive the millions of zombies turned to the dark side. This is about trying to hold on to humanity, little by little, as it slips further away.
The usual suspects are included as extras including a director’s commentary, a deleted scene and other generic pieces.
Lionsgate presents Maggie. Directed by Henry Hobson. Written by John Scott III. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abigail Breslin, Joely Richardson. Run Time: 95 minutes Rated R. Released on DVD: 7.7.2015
Tags: Abigail Breslin, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Joely Richardson, Maggie