GORE IN THE STORE
THE INTERGALACTIC ADVENTURES OF MAX CLOUD ***
Directed by Martin Owen.
Starring Scott Adkins, John Hannah, Lashana Lynch, Elliot James Langridge, Tommy Flanagan, Franz Drameh, Sally Collett, Isabelle Allen.
Science fiction/Comedy/Action, UK, 98 mins, Cert 12.
Released in the UK on digital, DVD and Blu-ray by 101 Films and (Yet) Another Distribution Company on 18th January 2021.
THE INTERGALACTIC ADVENTURES OF MAX CLOUD isn’t a title that inspires much confidence, exuding as it does a big pungent whiff of cheese, and leading you to assume that it will either be a silly sci-fi spoof or a cringingly earnest low budget B movie. True to its title, it’s a mixture of the two that manages to both entertain and disappoint.
The plot sees teenage gamer Sarah (Isabelle Allen) sucked from her bedroom in 1990 Brooklyn into her favourite videogame where she takes over the avatar of spaceship chef Jake (Elliot James Langridge), the de facto sidekick of chiselled intergalactic hero Max Cloud (Scott Adkins). They have crashed on the prison planet Heinous (whose phonetic similarity to anus is milked liberally). They must escape without falling victim to the wrath of evil sorceress Shee (Lashana Lynch) and Revengor (John Hannah), a mysterious cloaked figure introduced reclining on a throne whose look echoes some of pop culture’s greatest villains (Thanos, Emperor Palpatine and Gwyneth Paltrow’s SLIDING DOORS love interest). Whilst in the real-world Sarah’s best friend Cowboy (Franz Drameh) must use his gaming skills to return.
Surprisingly the cast is stacked with recognisable faces. However, their performances are a mixed bag. Scott Adkins as the macho adventurer with a secret passion for baked goods is excellent fun. He expertly captures the physicality of classic video game brawlers in his posturing, and he gets to put his martial arts training to good use.
Sadly, the usually dependable John Hannah, who I was most excited to see, is woefully miscast as Revengor. His jokes, as the evil overlord who relaxes by watching retro workout videos, consistently fall flat and his choice of raspy villain voice is a little lacklustre and irritating.
Thankfully the rest of the cast fares better. Max’s fellow heroes Rexy (Sally Collett) and Brock Donnelly (Tommy Flanagan, at his gruffest and most mumbling) are likeable enough and give game performances.
The ‘trapped in a video game’ conceit has been done more inventively elsewhere, going right back to 1982’s TRON and then more recently with 2017’s surprisingly fun JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE. Unfortunately, MAX CLOUD doesn’t offer a new angle on this somewhat tired setup, and frustratingly never even attempts any real justification for why, or how, Sarah ends up in her video game other than a vague illusion to a space witch.
It also seems to be slightly unsure of its target audience. For the most part visually, with its bright and bold colours, and tonally, with its goofy and somewhat gentle humour, it feels like something that could be shown on children’s weekend breakfast TV (which isn’t a criticism). However, it’s rated 12 as some swearing and a fight that, although not graphic, is pretty violent with a lot of aggressive stabbing. It seems to want to skew older, but I think it would be much more successful by fully embracing a younger audience.
Although it’s been made on a low budget, you can tell that the filmmakers have worked hard to make that budget go as far as possible and there’s been real passion fed into this. There are some impressive CGI and genuinely exciting and inventive action sequences. The final boss fight being a particular highlight that does a great job of replicating the aesthetics of a STREET FIGHTER style scrap in flesh and blood. Also, the glimpses of the 16-bit Max Cloud video game look fantastic.
I feel guilty about being too negative as, although I don’t think this film quite succeeds, it’s also hard to feel any ill will towards it. It is a pleasant, enough silly diversion. There are a few laughs, a few interesting creative choices, nothing in it to anger or upset and a run time that clocks in under 90 minutes. Honestly, these days sometimes that’s what you need. If you want a piece of original, thought-provoking movie making, then give this a miss. However, if you wish to switch off, and be moderately distracted from the world for an hour and a half, then you could do worse than MAX CLOUD.
Reviewed by John Upton.