The Intergalactic Adventures of Max Cloud (2020)
Directed by Martin Owen
Written by Sally Collett and Martin Owen
Produced by Alan Latham, Thomas Mattinson, Phil McKenzie, Matt Williams
Unrated, 1h 28min
There are those of us of an age (ahem) who remember the big movies of the 80s — Mortal Kombat, Dungeons & Dragons, Super Mario Bros., Masters of the Universe — OK, maybe they weren’t that big, but they had a very distinct style.
The game movies had their aesthetic, and The Intergalactic Adventures of Max Cloud leans into that same style with a very self-aware panache. From the very beginning, with the synthesizer music track and the metallic logo art, it definitely knows what kind of movie it is. And while there’s an undertone of feminist/LGBTQ sensibilities, it’s minor enough that it doesn’t interfere with one’s appreciation of the story.
The basics: Sarah (Isabelle Allen) is playing the Max Cloud game when she gets to a particular juncture just as dad Tony (Sam Hazeldine) tries to cut off her console time. In the game, Max (Scott Adkins) has just fallen through a secret “Easter egg” door and confronted the Space Witch (Jason Maza), who somehow manages to give Sarah her wish to play games all the time — and sucks her into the game to inhabit the Jake character (Elliot Langridge). Now playing on the inside at the crew chef after the ship crashes on the prison planet Heinous, Sarah is able to communicate through the game with her best friend Cowboy (Franz Drameh), who’s on the outside helping her play the game.
Yes, this has been done. Ish. Jumanji and Zathura come to mind, but Max Cloud embraces the trope and
The stakes: there’s only one life left, so Cowboy can’t pause or save or reset the game, because no one knows what would happen to Sarah. In the meantime, she’s got to help Max and Commander Rexy (Sally Collett) escape the planet before they’re captured by Revengor (John Hannah) and Shee (Lashana Lynch). This is pure 80s kitsch, with Hannah and Lynch chewing the scenery raw. They’re performances are just over the top enough to put them in the same box as Dennis Hopper and Raul Julia. It’s silly fun and very much doesn’t take itself seriously. Adkins also throws out a bigger-than-life performance as Max, the captain of the ship and the hero who knows he’s the hero.
Just don’t question how the story logic works when applied to the character interactions within the game, as we get development arcs for 8-bit video game characters who have conversations and experiences that don’t come out of the game programming. You have to apply handwavium and remember that the “Space Witch” is the logic bomb in the midst of everything.
Director Martin Owen does a good job delivering the pastiche, with the ninjas and Skeletor-themed villain’s lair and the Mortal Kombat kung fu action along with a well-paced script that doesn’t try too much and doesn’t get overloaded with too many plot elements. It’s a straight shot from beginning to end, with a simple goal without any baggage. There are a few twists that are fun little surprises, and they fit pretty well into the 80s family dynamic that you saw in plenty of movies at the time — that bit where the parents are squares until something happens and then ….
Suffice to say, The Intergalactic Adventures of Max Cloud is a fun hour and a half of 80s popcorn. Worth the time for something that’s not too full of itself, and it doesn’t try to shovel an afterschool special message at you. That alone is worth the price of admission.