Max Cloud is an utter waste of underground action star Scott Adkins’ talents, and curious DTV aficionados should look elsewhere for their genre thrills.
For those with an affinity for the DTV market, Scott Adkins is likely a household name, a bright-shining light in a sea of shit. He has starred in some of the best action flicks of the past decade, most of which unfortunately never got a chance to grace the silver screen. While mainstream moviegoers are apparently content to watch Mark Wahlberg mumble his way through yet another Peter Berg abomination, fans of true action fare — and not merely celebrity — are talking up Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, Undisputed 3: Redemption, and Avengement. Often, such recommendations fall on deaf ears, making the Adkins fanbase feel even more protective of their beloved hero of the underground. Of course, you never want to root against success for someone like Adkins, deserving of acclaim as he so clearly is, but his presence is a real boon for the low-budget films he frequents, and if he were to ever fully graduate, the DTV sidelines would be filled with no small number of us day-one stans talking about “we knew him when.” Not even the most diehard Adkins fan, though, would find much to like about his latest low-budget feature, The Intergalactic Adventures of Max Cloud, a tongue-in-cheek misfire that only accomplishes in prolonging the actor’s tenure in direct-to-video purgatory.
A lame, unfunny Jumangi/Galaxy Quest mash-up, the film finds Adkins as the eponymous gentleman, an egotistical, 16-bit video game superhero circa 1990 who travels the universe in his space ship kicking ass and talking in clichéd catchphrases. In a plot twist far too stupid to get into, teenage gamer extraordinaire Sarah (Isabelle Allen) is sucked into the game, where she inhabits the avatar of Jake (Elliot James Langridge), the ship’s nerdy chef. There is also a sassy female crewmate named Rexy (co-writer Sally Collett) who is around solely to cut Max down to size, as well as a traitorous bounty hunter (Tommy Flanagan) and a baddie named Revenger, a.k.a. Jeremy (John Hannah, truly slumming), who naturally wants to destroy Earth. None of this is meant to be taken with any measure of seriousness, and the film is certainly better for it. The problem, then, is just how lazily it goes about its silliness, starting specifically with the production design. Why anyone involved here thought that a 16-bit video game from 1990, when “brought to life,” would look like a Sid and Marty Krofft production from the 1970s is a real mystery. The costumes, meanwhile, resemble bargain-basement Marvel knock-offs produced in 2013, while the CGI is nothing if not 1998 SyFy Channel fx. The use of practical effects in certain moments, specifically miniatures, is admittedly a lot of fun, but once again, has nothing aesthetically to do with ‘90s video gaming and is at odds with the godawful digital effects.
Director Martin Owen does skirt budgetary issues by having action sequences featuring elaborate baddies take place solely within the game and presented from the perspective of a player in the real world, meaning it takes the form of 16-bit animation on a television screen, and that kind of shoestring inventiveness is appreciated. But he seems to have forgotten the selling point of an Adkins-starring film are the fight sequences, and, to be blunt, these are some of the worst ever committed to film. On paper, it’s a tidy fit, as Adkins the performer is essentially a video game character come to life, a perfect marriage of graceful, fluid athleticism and sheer brute force. In an effort to make the action more closely resemble this gaming aesthetic, the filmmakers employ such tired techniques as fast motion and speed ramping, rendering Adkins’ presence here virtually unrecognizable and entirely superfluous. I don’t know who this man doling out stiff leg sweeps and basic throat punches is, but it’s not my Scott Adkins. That said, it’s easy to see why the actor was so attracted to this material: it’s a self-reflexive send-up of the tough-as-nails persona he has cultivated over the years, playing off audience expectations of screen brutality. In his Captain America-wannabe jumpsuit, this is also the closest Adkins will ever get to playing a superhero, a real tragedy as the man was born for the comic book universe: tall, dark, handsome, and with a jaw that could cut granite. This role also affords Adkins the opportunity to show off his comedic chops, which are…hey, did I mention that he’s an incredible athlete and very good-looking? The Intergalactic Adventures of Max Cloud is certainly not worthy of his considerable talents, nor the time of his devoted fans. Here’s hoping Jesse V. Johnson is calling Adkins as we speak.