Review by Sean Boelman
For the most part, retro nostalgia is a pretty fun and harmless trend, but some of the concepts that have been done again and again have worn themselves thin. And while Max Cloud desperately wants to be quirky fun, its campiness instead comes off as an annoying attempt at pandering.
The film follows a teen gamer who accidentally gets sucked into her favorite video game and must embark on an intergalactic adventure to finish the game and escape. It’s a lot like the recent Jumanji reboot and its sequel, albeit with sci-fi switched in for adventure, and it doesn’t feel particularly original as a result.
One of the big issues with the movie is that it struggles to find the right mix of action and comedy. The script really separates the two genres, with an action sequence followed by the characters cracking a few jokes and then another fight. Even the attempts at fish-out-of-water physical comedy are underwhelming.
Another thing that is missing from this film is deep world-building. The video game is clearly influenced by classic sci-fi properties like Star Trek, and what works about those franchises so well is how immersive they are. Here, it feels like a nondescript spacefaring world riddled with stock characters.
It’s obvious from the beginning that the budget for this movie is pretty low, and it’s seemingly meant to be endearing. And while the cartoonish production design is funny at first, it loses its value rather quickly when there isn’t much of an investment otherwise into establishing the world in which the film is set.
Even more frustrating is the fact that the character development of the real-world characters is so thin. The movie attempts to establish a dynamic between the protagonist stuck in the video game and her buddy controlling her from outside, but fails to make anything out of it. A subplot involving the protagonist’s father is also a nonstarter.
The cast is filled with familiar faces, and they are really the only thing that makes this glorified B-movie worth watching. Scott Adkins plays the eponymous hero, and as a parody of sci-fi badasses, he’s pretty fun to watch. The antagonists are played by Lashanna Lynch (who is about to break out big) and John Hannah (who it’s nice to see again) and are also fun in a goofy way.
Max Cloud sounds like it should be a lot of fun, and although there are some good moments, it is largely an imitation of better, more enjoyable flicks. The concept is good, but the story isn’t, leading this to feel frustratingly derivative.
Max Cloud hits VOD on December 18.