Thursday, December 17, 2020

Max Cloud, Starring Scott Adkins

It is 1990, three years after the debut of Star Trek: Next Gen, but Sarah’s favorite video game hero is still way more Kirk than Picard. Frankly, he is a totally meathead, but that generally serves him well in his retro console video game world. He is supposed to fight, not negotiate or get in touch with his feelings. However, Sarah will have to keep up with him when she is mysteriously transported into the game in Martin Owen’s Max Cloud (a.k.a. The Intergalactic Adventures of Max Cloud), which opens tomorrow on VOD.

Sarah’s compulsive gaming frustrates her father, but it is a mutual interest keeping her torch-carrying pal Cowboy sort of in the picture. Unfortunately, he is not as strong a gamer, but he will have to play her character when the strange “Space Witch” whisks her into the game. Much to her regret, she was playing the nebbish cook Jake instead of the tough-as-nails Cloud. The gender-swap thing also causes some awkward moments with Cloud, but they have more pressing issues.

Sarah hopes the Space Witch will return her to her world if she successfully finishes the game, but the evil galactic overlord Revengor is definitely out to get them—and Sarah only has one life left (with Cowboy controlling her movements). Ideally, they should also finish before her dad gets home.

For fans of the video games and science fiction movies of the era (think
Tron and Last Starfighter), Max Cloud is entertaining in a very way-back way, but Owen and screenwriter Sally Collett stretch the amusing gimmick to its breaking point. Frankly, this might work better as an episode of an anthology show than a full feature. The retro game graphics are clever and the in-world visuals are pretty groovy, but the narrative starts to feel like it is repeating itself (of course, you could argue that is very video game like).

Regardless, you have to give Scott Adkins credit for poking fun at his action hero image, by playing the titular Cloud, a literal caricature. Still, fans should be assured, he still has ample opportunities to show off his martial arts chops. Tommy Flanagan is right there with him as gruff space bounty hunter, Brock Donnelly. Screenwriter Collett plays off Adkins well in the role of his comparatively more grounded first officer, Rexy. However, John Hannah (from
Four Weddings and a Funeral) is clearly uncomfortably out of his element playing Revengor (a sci-fi villain in the tradition of Michael Ironside’s Overdog in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, whom everyone surely remembers).

Max Cloud
is a likable film that wears its retro heart on its sleeve, but it just hits the same notes over and over. In contrast, the thematically-related Max Reload and Nether Blasters has a much fuller narrative arc and builds on its video game motifs in inventive ways. This is a nice film, but that is as far as it goes. Recommended primarily for Adkins completists and 1980s-early 1990s gamers, Max Cloud releases tomorrow (12/18) on VOD.