Well, it's only May, and I finally have been to a movie in a theater! Believe me, it was far more enjoyable than squinting at my computer like has been necessary due to some international wanderings. And to get back into the swing of things, I thought I would go out to the Tower in Salt Lake and take a look at Maggie, Arnold Schwarzenegger's new zombie movie.
You read that right. Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in (and produced) an indie zombie movie. And the thing is, while it is not perfect, it has a strong spirit and might even make you cry a little.
The story is that Maggie (Abigail Breslin) is infected with the virus that slowly turns people into zombies, and her father (Arnold) decides to keep her at home instead of taking her to the mandatory quarantine area. And that's it. He doesn't storm any hospitals demanding medicine or have a semiautomatic last stand or go postal on a zombie hoard or anything. He isn't even ex-military. What the film is is a slow burning meditation on death and loss and love.
Haters say that the film suffers because "nothing happens." And if you are looking for plot twists or action this is not the place to find it. The film instead chooses to simply ask a question and let the audience simmer on their answer 90 minutes. It is not so much a narrative plot-driven film as it is a narrative emotional portrait. And mostly, it works.
Much of why it works is the visual control the film demonstrates. Whether you dig digital or not, it sure makes it easy to make pretty pictures to look at, even if they are as starkly color-free as those here. At times they create a more impressionistic feel, one that is distinctly not as scared of zombies as it is of Maggie's impending, unavoidable fate. It's all pretty absorbing.
And I think the visual elements end up doing what Arnold can't quite, which is give voice to a full emotional situation. Much of this is intentional: the script seems purposefully pared down (sometimes to the point of creating less-than-good dialog) and he just isn't given things to do. Again, some say this just makes it boring and that as a consequence we miss out seeing him do some actual acting. I'm not sure I feel that way. His presence is constant, if a little uncomfortably subdued, and his haggard face and greying beard shot in close up as they often are often give off the kind of stoic sadness that is at the heart of the film.
Even though there are more than a few external flaws, at its heart Maggie is a really keen examination of death, or more accurately dying, and coping with terrible things beyond one's control. You can also read some commentary on AIDS or at the very least stigmatization of people being treated for longterm illness if you like. The zombie movie has turned a corner here and is more plot device than plot itself.
So I say go to the Tower and see it. (It is technically also on Amazon, but why would you do that to yourself?) At the very least you'll get a zombie movie with a flushed out emotional examination, which isn't something you can get everyday these days.
Maggie features Arnold Scharzenegger, Abigail Breslin and Joely Richardson and is rated PG-13 for having themes and some gross looking stuff.
Written by John Scott 3
Directed by Henry Hobson
by Chase Harrison