Plot: What’s it about?
Just thinking about the storied career of Arnold Schwarzenegger, it makes my head spin. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always liked the guy. However, I’m sure that if you said an Austrian bodybuilder would go onto have one of the most amazing stints in Hollywood and be a two term Governor of California – well, it’s a bit hard to swallow. Schwarzenegger made his most notable debut in 1982’s Conan the Barbarian, though he’d had a handful of smaller roles (notably Hercules in New York) dating back to the late 60’s. The success of Conan led him to take the starring role in James Cameron’s now iconic The Terminator (a role he’s reprising once again in the Summer of 2015). His later films after that epitomized the 80’s with action and pointless (albeit fun) violence: Commando, The Running Man, Predator and Total Recall. The 90’s brought a lighter side to the actor with roles in more family-oriented films like Kindergarten Cop, Junior and Jingle All the Way. I suppose the best way to say it is that no matter what your taste in “Ah nuld” there’s bound to be a film for you. Since his stint as Governor is now a thing of the past and I suppose his political life is as well, he’s returned to the big screen. And so, it’s finally happened…Arnold Schwarzenegger is in a zombie movie.
Maggie (Abigail Breslin) has been bitten. In this world, that’s a bad thing as it means that she’ll eventually turn into a flesh-craving zombie. However, unlike most zombie films, the transition isn’t a matter of minutes or hours – it can be weeks or months. Her father, Wade (Arnold Schwarzenegger) takes her back to the farm where her stepmother (Jolie Richardson) and two siblings await her arrival. We don’t know what caused the zombie outbreak and we don’t know the cure, but at a certain point in time – presumably when the zombie crave flesh – they’re to be taken to quarantine. Wade lives in a state of denial as his daughter begins to change, though she’s trying to cope with what’s happening as well. Her friends seem supportive, even though another has also been infected. The clock is ticking, the change, like it or not, is coming and it’s only a matter of time before the long arm of the law will come knocking. What’s a father to do?
This is a zombie movie without any of the pratfalls of being a “zombie” movie. The genre has become so clichéd that it’s kind of odd to even make a zombie movie these days as audiences have most likely seen it all. That’s where Maggie is a bit different. I’m willing to be that the filmmakers have assumed that we’ve seen every Shaun of the Dead to 28 Days Later to World War Z out there and wanted to throw us a curve. The movie avoids any stereotypical small group of survivors wielding a gun and taking out the flesh eaters, but rather this is a character study of family. If it makes any sense, the movie tries to show us a much more human side of being a zombie. There are, I feel, a lot of missed opportunities here but it was a refreshing change of pace to see Schwarzenegger in a more caring role. Granted, his last few films have been as such, maybe he’s finally mellowing out in his later years. Still, as tempted as I was to subtitle this “The Terminator and Little Miss Sunshine take on zombies!” I resisted. You’re welcome.
Video: How’s it look?
This a perfect transfer. This is a very interesting transfer as well since there’s really no use of any bright color in the movie – ever. If you’re looking for bright yellow hues, glorious reds or anything of the like you’ll need to look elsewhere. The plains of the midwest have never looked so uninviting. Having said that, the sheer look and feel of the film are second to none. Detail is amazing, we can see the puffy-ness under Schwarzenegger’s eyes. The detail of the bit on Maggie’s arm and even the spider veins on her face (as the film progresses). Grey tones and a darker contrast really make this film have a unique look and feel. Still, the 2.40:1 AVC image is one of the most stunning I’ve ever seen. Colorful it’s not, but amazing it is.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The included DTS HD Master Audio mix isn’t that bad, though as I sit here and scratch my head, I’m hard-pressed to try and remember anything notable about it. Certainly vocals are strong and crisp, Schwarzenegger’s trademark Austrian accent is in full force (just once I’d like to see if he can do a passable “American” accent). There are some subtle nuances that emirate from the surrounds, but nothing really of note. Bear in mind this isn’t a “shoot ’em up” zombie movie – it’s it the opposite. The front stage handles the remainder of the “action” with the greatest of ease. While it’s not bad in the most literal sense, it’s not on par with other films of this genre.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Audio Commentary – Hobson actually gives a very intriguing commentary track with tons of little “I did this here” and “for this scene, we…” that shed some light on the film, the shoot and the genre as a whole. I really enjoyed this track.
- Making Maggie – A bit longer than your cookie cutter “Making of…” featurette, this 16 minute segment essentially re-iterates what’s said by the individual cast and crew, but with some behind the scenes footage included.
- Interviews with the Cast and Crew
- Henry Hobson (Director) – Hobson discusses what led him to the project, how he’d been pitched other zombie films and what made Maggie stand out to him.
John Scott 3 (Writer) – I have no idea why he has a 3 after his name, but nevertheless he discusses his motivation for writing the film, his creation of Wade as the father figure he’s always been looking for as well as a zombie movie with a focus on death as opposed to the struggle for life.
Arnold Schwarzenegger (“Wade”/Producer) – Speaking almost entirely in clichés, Schwarzenegger tells us what attracted him to the role, the father/daughter relationship within it and making an “anti” zombie movie.
Abigail Breslin (“Maggie”) – Breslin discusses her particular attraction to the role and her own personal connection with sick friends and dealing with the isolation.
Joley Richardson (“Caroline”) – Richardson tells us of a cancelled trip to New Orleans due to her busy schedule, only to get the script that night which filmed in…you guessed it, New Orleans! She viewed the movie as a family drama as opposed to a zombie film, but nevertheless gives us her point of view on her role and the movie as a whole.
The Bottom Line
Maggie was a breath of fresh air in the realm of zombie movies. I found nothing particularly “wrong” with it and enjoyed the new take on this now classic tale. I think it could have benefitted from a few things here and there, but it’s nice to see Schwarzenegger in a more passive role. The Blu-ray picture is beautiful, albeit mostly void of any bright color (even the blood is black). Still, it offers up a nice bevy of supplements for fans of the film.