Out of all actor reinventions, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s might seem a little forced lately. And yet despite the box office failure of his first solo comeback movie (“The Last Stand”), he seems to have the full support of studios on doing at least half-a-dozen more movies. One of those is going into a genre that’s almost spread itself too thin: The zombie flick. Is that really the best place for an actor to reinvent himself when the genre needs its own reinvention?
Fortunately, the zombie movie has had a slight reinvention if you go by the movie “Warm Bodies” and the inevitable sequels about to ensue. The rest of it all is simply the same old thing, even if “World War Z” is still reportedly very compelling. Schwarzenegger’s movie (“Maggie”) steals from “The Living Dead” cookie jar by running with the bitten by a zombie idea, and turns it into a race against time.
That might sound exciting to some, particularly when the zombie-bitten person is the daughter of Schwarzenegger’s character. “The Living Dead”, however, manages to make this problem more compelling in just a few minutes than what might be possible in a 90-minute movie. Nevertheless, seeing Schwarzenegger playing a concerned dad could be more of a reinvention than it appears.
He hasn’t played a dad in a movie other than a couple of times, or at least where the father is desperate to help his dying child. The nightmare scenario of your son or daughter being bitten by a zombie and trying to avoid the implications is enough to think of Schwarzenegger finally displaying some intense dramatic skills. Being a father himself who’s gone through a little turmoil, he has plenty to tap into once the film goes forward.
The question is whether that perpetual Austrian accent will get in the way of his dramatic acting being taken seriously. If the Schwarz still has movie fans, they understand that he works best in the tongue-in-cheek roles where he can have a few chuckle-worthy one-liners as attempted in “The Last Stand.” His 1980s and 1990s film persona may be outdated, but it ultimately seems to be what fans want again.
And that may be what Schwarzenegger gives them once his other film roles go before the cameras. Movies like “The Expendables” franchise, plus more “Conan the Barbarian” and “Terminator” show the new examples of reinvention being a re-visitation of what you did before. It’s not an easy place to be in when there’s no proof yet Schwarzenegger’s fans will accept what they think they want from the good old days.
All it takes, though, is one dramatic part to prove that Schwarzenegger can be cast later in a better drama. If they make “Maggie” as intense as “The Walking Dead”, it could shock everybody in the Schwarz’s skills, no matter that it doesn’t do the zombie genre any favors. Or perhaps it reinvents the zombie genre to a point where we no longer see them as ambling creatures with lumbering gaits.
Similarly, perhaps we’ll be lucky enough to see the movie with some kind of fresh method of forgetting about what came before. For Schwarzenegger, wiping out his prior persona might be the only way we can look at his attempted reinvention with the right perspective.