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Max Beyond (2024) Review

The new animated feature Max Beyond opens with eight-year-old Max (Cade Tropeano, The Girl Who Got Away, The Devil All the Time) being rescued from the Axiom Corporation’s research facility by his brother Leon (Dave Fennoy, Trick Moon, RWBY: Volume 7). After Leon defeats the security forces sent to stop them, an android samurai is sent in and makes short work of Leon before Max seemingly creates a nuclear blast that destroys everything.

And then we’re back where it all began with Max being questioned by Dr. Johnson (Jane Perry, Devil’s Pass, World War Z) and the cycle repeats itself. That’s because Max can open rifts between realities, and he’s searching for the one in which Leon, a former Marine, doesn’t die while trying to rescue him. But every time he uses that ability it weakens him, to the point that the next time he tries it will kill him.

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Written by Stavros Pamballis (Boy on the Bridge, Siege on Liperti Street) and Paula Crickard based on an idea from director Hasraf Dulull (Fast Layne,2036 Origin Unknown) Max Beyond was written as an introduction to the backstory / characters to the currently in production game Max Beyond which is set for release next year. And, in keeping with that purpose, it was animated with Epic’s Unreal Engine, the same program used to create games like Fortnite.

Unfortunately, what Max Beyond really is, is a good example of the different storytelling and animation needs of games and feature films. The Unreal Engine may be state of the art for game design, but compared to what we’re used to for animated features, it’s very primitive looking. The characters don’t come close to looking realistic, they have skin that is so smooth and devoid of any texture, it barely looks like skin at all. Their hair, looks solid, as if they’re using an entire bottle of gel to hold it in place. Inanimate objects don’t fare any better, a character does coke at one point, and it looks like a lump of white clay, not at all powdery.

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These kinds of details might not matter in a game full of fast-paced scenes where you’re concentrating on not getting killed. But they are very noticeable in Max Beyond, especially in dialogue scenes I can’t imagine this level of animation being acceptable in a modern TV show, let alone a movie, and after a while it was painful to watch.

Plot wise, Max Beyond suffers from being extremely repetitive. Leon tries to fight his way out of the Axiom facility with Max, buts ends up dead, leaving him still a prisoner. Then Max jumps to another reality and it happens again. Different details, same results. It’s like a game where you die, respawn and repeat. It gets predictable and dull as you know how it will turn out. And there are no consequences attached to it. That is, until the final act when suddenly, and conveniently, it becomes a risk to Max’s life giving some urgency to things.

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But by that point it’s way too late to save the film, even the car chase falls flat. It even resorts to staging another weak reboot of The Terminator’s fuel truck scene to try and work up thrills before limping to a confusing ending.

Since it’s meant to be a tie in with an upcoming game, I would assume that it’s aimed, at least in part, at gamers. And maybe it will appeal to them more than it did me. But I really can’t see too many people finding Max Beyond to be anything more than a cutscene animation that goes on way too long.

The Movie Partnership will release Max Beyond to Digital Platforms in the UK on April 22nd and in the US on the 23rd.

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Our Score

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