'Maggie' Review Round-Up: It's a Terminal Illness Tearjerker Masquerading as a Zombie Apocalypse Movie

Friday, 24 April 2015 - 1:39PM
Friday, 24 April 2015 - 1:39PM
'Maggie' Review Round-Up: It's a Terminal Illness Tearjerker Masquerading as a Zombie Apocalypse Movie
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Maggie finally premiered at Tribeca Film Festival, and the reviews were decidedly mixed. Everyone agreed that it was a tearjerker, but some thought it was too depressing. Everyone agreed that Arnold Schwarzenegger stepped outside his comfort zone, but some thought he was better off resting on his laurels. And everyone agreed that the film was a mash-up of zombie horror and family tearjerker, but no one could agree about whether that was an inspired or misguided idea.

Arnie's back! ... Or is he?

This was the biggest question: can Arnie pull off a small, subtle dramatic role? After the premiere, the jury is still out.

Maggie Review Round-Up: A Well-Acted Deconstruction of the Zombie Genre

"This kind of modest independent terrain is new for him, and the film gains significant swagger from his blockbuster-sized presence alone. But stoic, tight-jawed integrity comes naturally to the action icon, and he's affectingly cast as a hulking protector figure compressing his own unruly emotions for the benefit of his family."Variety

"Above all else, 'Maggie' stands out as the first genuine tearjerker in Arnold Schwarzenegger's career. The actor delivers a notably gentler performance unlike anything we've seen from him before." - Indiewire

"Aside from a couple of brief scuffles, there's no real action here. Nor is there much talking; Wade is the strong, silent type. But that just gives Schwarzenegger a chance to demonstrate a quieter, more grounded sort of charisma." - Slash Film

"The former California governor, who once found camp in almost everything, plays Wade with a deeply earnest passion... Schwarzenegger is no doubt out for a shot of gravitas in this role, yet the unremitting film shows how unaccustomed he is with a dramatic story that involves interacting with what is supposed to seem like a real family. This is not the part that will win him the Lifetime Achievement Oscar."

"The action star acquits himself respectably as a father tending to his dying daughter (let us thank Walter Von Huene, listed in the credits as his drama coach)." - THR

"Being an internationally beloved screen icon doesn't necessarily make you a good actor. Alas, I come to you with a heavy heart to share that Arnold Schwarzenegger, a performer I love with a primacy usually reserved only for close blood relatives, really has no business making a drama." - The Guardian

"Simply put, Schwarzenegger has never been some Academy Award worthy thespian - he's an over-the-top action hero. Just because "Maggie" puts some pain behind his eyes and a tear on his cheek doesn't suddenly make him a dramatic force. A majority of the movie is Arnold meandearing around, frowning, often not even saying anything. When dialogue does actually make it out of his mouth, you will wish it hadn't; it's painful to watch him try to emote. He has the subtly [sic] of an 18-wheeler."Business Insider

Remember when Abigail Breslin was an Oscar nominee?

This was the only aspect of the film that everyone agreed on: Abigail Breslin is fantastic as the title character.

Maggie Review Round-Up: A Well-Acted Deconstruction of the Zombie Genre

"It's Abigail Breslin's gutsy, nuanced turn as the reluctantly undead title character - at once a heroine to be protected and a mutant threat to be destroyed - that makes the film unique within its grisly canon... Like the anti-heroine of 'Carrie,' Maggie turns from victim to aggressor with involuntary fluidity, though Breslin bridges these identities with a regular teenager's insecurities and occasional petulance. It's the most impressive assignment of her maturing career." - Variety

"The surprise in Maggie is Abigail Breslin, playing a teenager who flares and burns with dread as she becomes aware of the horror of her infection. For a zombie film, her performance delivers real emotion which is rarely seen in this genre. She ends up overshadowing the Terminator in a role that, while over the top, isn't played for its boilerplate melodrama. If there's any chilling fear in the film, she delivers it." - Screen Daily

It's a terminal illness drama above all else

Maggie Review Round-Up: A Well-Acted Deconstruction of the Zombie Genre

"They may be dead-eyed, gray-skinned and determinedly brain-hungry, but zombies have feelings too in "Maggie," an improbably bred but surprisingly humane hybrid of flesh-eater horror and young-adult weepie." - Variety

"Maggie" features a curious blend of horror and melodrama, but ultimately falls into the latter camp unlike anything else Schwarzenegger has done before." - Indiewire

"A terminal-illness family drama in which the ailment happens to be zombieism, Henry Hobson's Maggie does the genre mashup thing without an ounce of tongue-in-cheek attitude." - THR

"Like all of the best monsters, zombies can be used to tell meaningful stories that explore many different and socially relevant topics... But aside from minor asides... Maggie doesn't use the idea of a zombie outbreak as anything more than a window dressing. It is a drama about a dying girl. Cut out any reference to the living dead and Maggie would be exactly the same film, maybe even a better one. One has to wonder if the mashing up the zombie and dying child melodrama genres serves any purpose other than to trick mainstream audiences into watching a movie that will break their hearts." - Crave Online

"Maggie has the potential to be a great grief movie as this family has to deal with saying goodbye to their daughter. It is inevitable, the way cancer is, but that's not what zombies are about. Grief is a human coping mechanism. Zombies are about a total removal of humanity, transforming people into devolved guttural eaters... So this is missing the point of zombie movies, or unsuccessfully trying to appropriate it as something else." - Nuke the Fridge

Dark, both literally and figuratively

Maggie Review Round-Up: A Well-Acted Deconstruction of the Zombie Genre

"In a genre practically defined by fatalism, Maggie probably reigns supreme... It's depressing as all hell." - Crave Online

"I'm usually the defender of somber movies, and I'm usually the one who champions the positive value of those movies. It's constructive and cathartic to work through our grief and making art about it isn't inherently depressing. Not Maggie though. This was an unpleasant experience all along." - Nuke the Fridge

"Captured in moody grays and browns by cinematographer Lukas Ettlin, "Maggie" is sometimes too brooding for its own good, but just as often manages to generate a genuine sense of melancholy." - Indiewire

"It's the ugliest movie I can remember seeing since The Divide. It's so underlit you can barely even see anything. That's because there's no electricity any more so everyone uses lanterns. It's source lighting gone wrong." - Nuke the Fridge

"While Hobson's smarts are evident here, the picture's uniformly dim visuals and sometimes overplayed sound design are static enough to do a disservice to his work with the cast. In his effort to ensure we take the characters' suffering seriously, he seems loath to offer us any kind of sensory pleasure." - THR

The pacing is glacial

Many took no issue with the fact that the pacing is extremely slow, but several reviewers did.

Maggie Review Round-Up: A Well-Acted Deconstruction of the Zombie Genre

"It's a zombie melodrama where nothing really happens... 'Maggie' chugs along at a snail's pace and there is absolutely zero payoff for its immense amount of set-up... You know how some horror movies have eerily quiet moments, where the tension builds and builds until something crazy happens? That's 'Maggie' in its entirety, except it never builds to anything... Some are already calling 'Maggie' a 'slow burn,' but in order to burn, something needs to have been ignited in the first place." - Business Insider

"It just drags out the inevitable. It doesn't even build. A series of scenes, in which authority figures and doctors seem like potential threats, are undercut before anything interesting can happen... It wants to be the contemplative, brooding philosophical zombie movie, but just holding a shot of a character staring isn't deep. It doesn't have to be zombie hordes or action, but something has to be happening." - Nuke the Fridge

The character development leaves something to be desired

"The film is supposed to be an emotional, character-driven drama, but there's never a reason for the audience to care. There's no hook. The audience is thrown into the (lack of) action with no character or world building." - Business Insider

"The focus may be on a family of farmers, just regular folks as opposed to the urban heroes of zombie movies, but it has nothing to say about these people." - Nuke the Fridge

"Despite Breslin's best efforts, Maggie herself never moves beyond the sick, sad kid we meet in the opening scenes. Is she flirty? Nerdy? Sardonic? Sweet? After 95 drawn-out minutes with her, I still couldn't tell you. Director Henry Hobson and writer John Scott 3 assume that Maggie and Wade's dire predicament automatically makes them interesting, when in fact it should be the other way around." - Slash Film
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