Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of my childhood heroes and I’m a sucker for zombie movies so when I heard rumors that ‘Maggie’ was Arnold’s best film since his comeback I allowed myself some highly unrealistic expectations for this movie from first time director Henry Robson. Working with a screenplay by yet another newcomer John Scott, Henry Robson has made a movie that I am sorry to report is incredibly tedious that I can’t recommend on any level. The story is relatively simple. During a zombie outbreak where the infected slowly transform over several weeks, the infected are being herded into quarantine zones where the zombies can feed or die in relative isolation. Schwarzenegger’s character Wade is determined to looked after his infected daughter Maggie as long as possible until the day comes where he has to make the choice about what to do with her. Maggie initially runs away to spare her family the pain of watching her transformation but Wade is determined to give Maggie as normal a life as possible as long as he can and brings her back to the family farm where their family tries their best to pretend that all is well. While the premise has some potential, the movie that we have before us feels as if the filmmakers simply took the template for a formulaic TV movie of the week about a runaway teenager suffering from drugs or alcohol abuse and then swapped out the dilemma with a zombie infection. To their credit Arnold and Abigail Breslin (‘Little Miss Sunshine’, ‘Zombieland’) do the best they can with the material they are given but there is only so much heavy lifting they can do. Overall this movie felt like I’d watched an entire season of a terrible TV show geared toward a tween audience sensibility, an exhausting experience that had me squirming with boredom in spite of having only a meager 95 minute running time.
I love a good zombie movie and don’t need much of an excuse to give any movie on this topic a try. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve watched George Romero’s masterful original trilogy of ‘Night of the Living Dead’ (1968), ‘Dawn of the Dead’ (1978) and ‘Day of the Dead’ (1985) and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed more recent additions to the genre such as ’28 Days Later’ (2002) and ‘Shaun of the Dead’ (2004). I have to confess that I have long since given up caring about both the comic and the TV show ‘The Walking Dead’ but I did read well over 100 issues of the comic and watched 3 seasons of the show before realizing that I was no longer engaged with the story. So I guess I am not a total fanatic willing to watch anything with a zombie but I’m certainly a fan of zombies and love it when a writer or filmmaker comes along and introduces something new to the very crowded, often repetitive genre. I respect the fact that Henry Robson and John Scott make the attempt at showing the the emotional impact on a family watching a loved one become a monster but apart from some good makeup on Abigail Breslin, I can’t think of anything to praise about the movie. The simple story is horribly weighed down by an endless series of predictable dramatic beats that I would expect from a show like ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ but left me with my eyes rolling from start to finish.
So I think calling this movie Arnold’s comeback is premature but I continue to maintain that the total badass who captured my imagination as a kid in the 1980s still has all the goods to blow our minds. That said, he needs to work with better filmmakers. ‘Conan the Barbarian’ (1982) was one of the best moviegoing experiences I had as a young kid (I’m still amazed I was allowed to go) while ‘Terminator’ (1984), ‘Predator’ (1987) and ‘Total Recall’ (1990) I think are some of the best sci-fi action films ever made. What these films have in common are great filmmakers with a strong vision, men like John Milius, James Cameron, John McTiernan, and Paul Verhoeven. Arnold clearly still gets a lot of joy from the filmmaking process or else he would have never returned to the business. If I were to offer a little unsolicited advice to this man I respect and admire, I’d tell him to spend a little more time hunting down great material and make every effort to partner up with the best filmmakers alive. Obviously that’s easier said than done, but there’s an entire new generation of filmmakers who grew up enjoying his movies that I am sure would leap at the opportunity to do for Arnold what Sam Peckinpah once did for Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea in ‘Ride the High Country’ (1962). Arnold is a very savvy businessman and producer and I know that with the right material in his hands he could remind everyone why at one time he was the biggest movie star in the world.
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A little taste of the glorious career of Ahnold.