Saturday, June 06, 2015

Schwarzenegger Enthralls, ‘Maggie’ Does Not

In Maggie, the world is swept by a virus that gradually turns people into zombies.  Civilization hasn’t completely fallen, though there are signs of deterioration.  Hospitals, police, electricity, telephone, and broadcasting are still working to an extent.  Technology, however, is made simpler as exemplified by the appearances of a rotary dial telephone and a car cassette player during the story.  People that have the virus and in the early stage of zombification are allowed to be with their loved ones but are required to report for scheduled medical check-ups.  This arrangement lasts for a couple of weeks.  Once they are in the latter stage of turning into a zombie – wherein they’re already dangerous and contagious – they have to be brought to the quarantine zone, where a horrifying death awaits; police enforces this protocol and are sanctioned to use force if needed to make the infected and his or her family comply.

Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Wade Vogel, a farmer whose daughter, Maggie, is infected by the virus.  Wade does his best to make the most out of Maggie’s last days, and, at the same time, is tortured with deciding what to do with Maggie when time comes: bring her to the quarantine zone; administer the same injection given at quarantine to Maggie at home (which is excruciatingly painful); or make her death quick and painless.

Maggie does have a good premise and genuine emotional depth at times, but it felt it was trying too hard in making itself dramatic – sad piano music; grim, Man of Steel-like color grading; overwhelmingly melodramatic plot sequences; etc.  Thus, because of the artificiality, Maggie turned out to be dull and needlessly padded.  Its slow pace doesn’t help either.  Now, I appreciate slow pacing as long as it accomplishes something interesting – building tension well, fleshing out characters methodically, etc.  Maggie has none of that.  Thus, the result of the slow pacing is a generally boring narrative.  Come to think of it, if you remove the zombie element of the plot, the story is reduced to a drama about a family dealing with a teenage member suffering with a terminal condition.  Boring, depressing stuff.

However, Arnold Schwarzenegger saves this movie from being awfully tedious.  He made his name from being a science fiction/fantasy/action movie hero, so his dramatic turn in Maggie is pretty different from his usual roles.  Sure, there were scenes where he had to kill some zombies and fought with a cop – reminding us that that, at 68 years old, Schwarzenegger is still formidable – but what made his performance enthralling and praiseworthy is the surprising acting depth he displayed in portraying the anguish and love of a father whose daughter is on her way to a bleak ending, helpless to do anything about it, but would stop at nothing to protect her.

All in all, Maggie is a mediocre film at best.   Out of Schwarzenegger’s fine performance, and maybe a sequence or two, there’s nothing rewarding or fresh that can be taken from this movie.

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