Maximum Ride may have been a really popular book series back in its hay day, but that doesn’t mean that it was destined to get a big budget film. On the contrary, the film got a really low budget title instead. The effects in this feature look worse than some fan made projects that I’ve seen and I’d expect a lot more out of it. Parts of the film show glimpses of hope and potential, but on the whole it is simply not a great adaption. Ah well, maybe it’s for the best that it ended here since an adaption of the last few books would have been dicey even with a big budget. Hopefully the inevitable Daniel X Netflix pilot gets a higher budget.
The film starts off with Max and the rest of her flock. She is a human who has had wings grafted onto her and the same applies to her friends. They escaped from the villains thanks to the help of a scientist there. It’s been many years and the scientist never returned for them. He is either dead or imprisoned. Max and her flock have been hiding at a hut during this time, but the Erasers (Wolf hybrids that were created by the villains) show up one day and kidnap Angel. (The youngest of the group) Max and Fang (The “tough” rival) decide to go after her while they leave the little kid, the blind one, and the fashion girl to fend for themselves. Is this a wise move? Probably not, but Max has to save Angel as soon as possible. The clock is ticking after all.
This movie definitely doesn’t bother to explain a whole lot to the viewers, but that’s okay. It gave you enough to make piecing the puzzle together pretty easy. It gets right to the plot, but unfortunately it isn’t executed well. Maximum herself is one of the big issues here. Now, the film did do a good job of casting her so that she actually looks like my interpretation of Max as opposed to the manga. (Worst design for Maximum ever) That’s where the positives end for her. She talks a really good game and is constantly making threats, but always ends up losing. She loses in one hit to a minion and then loses to an ordinary guy with a gun. She even loses to Ari when they meet up. It makes her confidence seem very hollow and undeserved. Max is definitely a lot more reasonable than the other characters, but that’s a very small consolation when you are still losing left and right.
The other characters are mostly just around to make bad decisions. Nudge is more interested in fashion than in keeping up with the others. She nearly jeopardizes everyone’s safety over a sweater and also takes the time to browse while Angel is in trouble. I certainly couldn’t sympathize with her at all. Gazzy likes explosives and messing around with them even after being told not too. He’s essentially your average kid and isn’t all that likable as a result. Iggy isn’t a bad character, but being blind is his only personality. Beyond that, he’s just an everyday guy who can talk a decently tough game, but doesn’t do a whole lot beyond that.
Ari is the main villain of this film or at least the guy with the biggest role. He’s a minion who has a personal grudge against Max. He snarls a lot and makes faces to be intimidating, but I can’t say that the act was all that convincing. It was hard to ever respect him as a villain either since he came across as really petty. He just got jealous of Max and that’s why he decided to become a villain. Certainly not the best reason eh? Jeb shows up and acts as shady as possible. I never trusted this guy from the start and I’d advise you to do the same. No matter what his reasons are, he did leave the heroes alone for years and didn’t seem all that broken up about it. Yeah…the guy seems suspect to say the least. I never liked him in the books either though.
Fang was horribly miscast, but ignoring that…he’s just not a good character. His romance feels very artificial and he always gives Max bad advice. Telling her not to help people and to actively just ignore trouble is something you’d expect a villain to say. It’s hard for Fang to get past this and he comes off as very self centered. Finally, there’s Angel. She’s not nearly as shady as in the books (yet) so she’s a good character. I do question how she was captured so easily when mind reading is her own gimmick. I mean…..it just didn’t make sense. She could even hear the thoughts while she was still far away from the villains. Naturally, the movie cut away so you couldn’t see what happened next since nobody would have believed it otherwise.
I’ll give the film some props for the dynamic opening credits. It sounded like something out of a video game adaption or a Tron kind of movie. Was it totally fitting for this film? No, but it should have been. How I see it, a good novel adaption can be mainstream like Harry Potter or it can be more of a niche product that aims at the hardcore fans. The theme fits the latter and I feel like the film was going for that, the execution just wasn’t there. There wasn’t much of a soundtrack otherwise and the writing is pretty generic.
One noticable issue is the bad special effects. It’s not as if special effects is a huge deal, but they are so painfully bad that you have to wonder who was handling this. I’ve seen fan projects with better effects or at least flashier ones at any rate. Whenever the characters fly around, it looks like they’re just jumping in front of a background as if we’re back in the 60s. It was scary just how unrealistic it all looked. I’m sure the film tried its best, but the result just wasn’t very good. If the effects were gonna be bad anyway, then I would have liked to have had some big fight scenes along the way. Not having any real action in the whole film is a bit of a let down. The film’s not all that bad as a drama adventure I suppose, but it’s hard to take the heroes so seriously when they’re this weak. If they can’t even beat a thug with a gun, then how can they hope to stop this whole organization? You really have to stretch your disbelief with this.
The heroes also take a little long to get to Angel. While she’s being repeatedly zapped, they’re busy getting knocked out, spending time at a hospital, and flirting instead of going full steam. It made them seem a little unemotional when they should have been going full blast constantly. Naturally, Fang kept saying that they should take a break and rest since that’s all he’s good for during the film.
Overall, Maximum Ride isn’t a really good adaption. The heroes are too weak and all of the villains are as generic as can be. Considering how young Angel is, it’s also a little grating to see her getting zapped over and over again as she waits for the heroes. The cliffhanger for the possible sequel is definitely not much of a draw either. The dream came out of nowhere and didn’t really help much. My final pet peeve is the opening scene as well as when it comes in at the end. Max jumps off of a cliff to escape the villains. It’s a dramatic moment and I figured it wouldshow her taking out the wings and flying off. It didn’t happen either times so I’ll assume she just died in the dream world. Maybe the budget ran out, but everything in the scene pointed towards her being ready to fly and it just didn’t happen. It was fitting I suppose.