Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Max Reload and the Nether Blasters

The so-called “Harbinger” has ambitions to subjugate the human race, because that is what super-villains do, but he is also a bit of a game-player, like Death in The Seventh Seal. His latest game of choice is the video game. He is using a notoriously unreleased cartridge game that a hardcore nerd like Max “Reload” Jenkins cannot resist. When his play-through goes viral, so does the virus to end all viruses in Scott Condit & Jeremy Tremp’s Max Reload and the Nether Blasters, which releases today on VOD.

Jenkins is a talented coder and gamer, but he drives his best friends Liz and Reggie crazy, because he can never play like a reliable team-member. Obviously, he is due for a lesson and the Harbinger will provide the impetus. Reload Jenkins is crazy about the ultra-retro Nether Dungeon franchise, so when a mysterious old man drops off a copy of the fabled unreleased sequel, he jumps at the chance to play it. It turns out there is a true Doomsday virus embedded in the code, which his hacker nemesis inconveniently spams out to the world. Those infected by it turn into glowing eyed zombies.

Fortunately, there is someone who understands what is going on. Eugene Wylder, the original creator of the Nether Dungeon game. Of course, he and Reload bicker like cats-and-dogs, because they are so alike. They might mess up the one chance to save the world, by beating the Harbinger at his own game.

Nether Blasters
cleverly channels the spirit of 1980s video game movies like The Last Starfighter and WarGames, while bringing the game-play technology up-to-the-minute. For gamers, there is a good mix of old school and contemporary gaming, whereas science fiction fans will dig the 1980s nostalgia. The latter is reinforced by surprisingly endearing performance of Martin Kove (the Cobra Kai sensei in The Karate Kid), as Jenkins’ guardian grandpa.

There is also some 1990s nostalgia in the form of Kevin Smith playing the three friends’ boss at the videogame store, but that isn’t as much fun (yet, its still some of his most endurable work in years). For further geek cred, Wil Wheaton narrates an in-film documentary on the history of the Nether Dungeon game.

Regardless, what really makes the film tick is the chemistry of the three principle gamer friends. Tom Plumley is appropriately annoying as the hero in need of humbling, but he also nicely plays off Hassie Harrsion and Joey Morgan, who transcend their torch-carrying platonic pal and schlubby best friend archetypes. Their scenes bantering and gaming together always ring true.

Indeed, Condit & Tremp have good ears for dialogue and a strong feel for the gaming world.
Nether Blasters has the vibe of a film made by gamers and fans for gamers and fans, but it is accessible to a wider general audience. Recommended for science fiction fans of all ages, Max Reload and the Nether Blasters releases today (8/11), on VOD.