Monday, April 22, 2024

Max Beyond: You Can Watch the Movie Before Playing the Game

It is time again to "live, die, repeat." However, unlike in The Edge of Tomorrow, each time you die, a little of you maybe dies for real—in all of the you’s. Of course, the one that dies is definitely dead. Max Walker is a little boy with the ability to shift between dimensions. In each one, his ex-Marine step-brother Leon tries to rescue him from an evil cyberpunk corporation. Unfortunately, in every dimension, Walker’s captors manage to stay one step ahead of the rescue attempts in Hasraf “HaZ” Dulull’s animated feature Max Beyond, which releases tomorrow on digital VOD.

It is no accident the first third of
Max Beyond feels like a video game. It was developed concurrently with an upcoming game. For prospective gamers, the feature serves as an introduction to the world. For viewers, we get to see Leon Walker blow dozens of Axion guards to smithereens before the company’s super mecha enforcer invariably kills him. Of course, the robotic killer is getting inside information from Ava Johnson, Max’s “doctor” (and a dead-ringer for Sarah Palin), who has him record all his “dreams” in a journal, so she can study them and anticipate his brother’s attacks.

Each time his brother is killed, Walker “resets,” jumping into a new dimension. It looks like each reset produces a cataclysmic explosion that anyone living in his current dimension ought to want to avoid. However, the various Ava Johnsons appear to be playing a collective long-game. Each reset clearly weakens Walker. She also starts to notice a cumulative ill-effect on Leon too. In fact, Max is looking so bad, she starts to have a change of heart, but she remains beholden to her evil multinational corporate masters.

There are a lot of repetitive action sequences in
Max Beyond and even more questionable motivation. A good 80% of what happens in the film seems poorly thought-out. It is a shame, because when it finally starts to seriously address its multiverse business, Dulull and co-writers Paula Crickard and Stavros Pamballis have some fresh ideas to offer, particularly the personal linkage between dimensions.

The animation looks very computer generated, which better serves the hardware in the action sequences than the characters during dramatic moments. Ironically, the character with the most intriguing developmental arc (or rather, any arc to speak of) is Dr. Johnson.

Max Beyond
might work as a teaser for the game, but the animation and characters fall short of cinematic standards. There is just too much time devoted to Leon Walker shooting sitting duck non-player characters, who cannot hit the broadside of a barn and often very obligingly walk into his stream of fire. Max Beyond gets some credit for multiverse originality, but not enough to recommend it when it releases digitally tomorrow (4/23).