I’ll admit, the premise of this movie, the trailer, the posters; all of it makes it out to look like young adult fodder of the blandest degree. It hopes to stay the course of the rising popularity in young adult novel adaptations such as Divergent and The Hunger Games. I would not even consider watching this movie had it not been for one thing: I read the novel this movie was based on, and enjoyed it enough to buy most of its sequels. Now, in cases like this, I try to analyze the movie as if I had never read the book, trying to surprise myself of the things I already subconsciously know will happen as if I’m seeing them for the first time. Even with all of this and more, I can confidently say that you don’t need to have read the source material to be disappointed in Maximum Ride.
I knew it would be bad right from the start. When one of your executive producers is Jenna Marbles of all people, you know you’re in for a mess. What I was curious to know was how bad the movie would be. I had seen various user reviews from sites like IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes with mixed opinions, and I’ve learned in my years as an aspiring critic that when a movie has mixed user reviews, it’s usually pretty bad. What drove me to watch this film, aside from an urge to appease my nostalgic-loving self, was to gauge that level of quality this movie has. Not only is it bad, it spectacularly recreates the art of sheer mediocrity.
This is not a movie on the level of so bad, it’s good. I don’t have the luxury to run into things with that heavenly quality everyday. I was able to get a few guffaws of laughter out of some serious scenes, due in part to some lackluster special effects and bad pacing, but the entire movie, spanning about eighty minutes, is an uninspired, aimless journey from beginning to end. The logic is flawed, the characters are devoid of any personality, devoid of any point, and devoid of any spark that lead the viewers to care about their plight whatsoever. It’s as if the producers of this movie read the book and were inspired to make the book into a movie, only to realize that making a movie was tough, so they took the bare minimum of the story’s most dramatic moments and threw them together to satisfy their goal.
There is no finesse, no detail to the events that are happening throughout this movie that those unfamiliar with the book won’t know what’s even going on. These scenes are set like flags, racing to get from one to the next as quickly as possible without any sense of slowing down. Very rarely does the movie think to incorporate some sense of explanation, instead trying to invoke an air of mystery the novel had to remain faithful. Only thing is, the novel has a character who thought more than she spoke, whereas the character on-screen talks just as little and never thinks at all. If a newcomer to the series could properly explain everything that happened from beginning to end accurately, I would be in complete shock.
That’s just one aspect, however. An accumulation of everything is enough to warrant a “Abandon all hope ye who enter here” sign, but the movie is so characteristically weak in every regard that it feels more akin to a fan-made Youtube movie. The plot is absurdly all over the place, poorly paced, and leaves no impact by the credits sequence. What may be the only thing worse is the characters and their actors. The acting by every individual is on-par with C-list actors, but a few stand out for being particularly atrocious. Particularly Allie Marie Evans, who plays Max, and Luke Gregory Johnson, who plays adult Ari, perform at a level that is slightly above laughable.
Johnson’s character is what is referred to as an “Eraser,” a wolf-human hybrid (which apparently just means he has long hair) with animal-like instincts and mannerisms. This gives him every reason to snarl and growl for no reason whatsoever, almost to signify an emphasis on dog jokes, but this is no comedy. I can’t count the times he’s simply snarled and looked “menacing” in whatever scene he’s in. Evans is what I’d call a poor man’s Kristen Stewart. Stewart is constantly mocked for her straight face style of acting, with her monotonous droning painting her acting as stiff and robotic. Evans is much of the same, except even worse. Every bit of screentime she shares with another has her looking bored or bossy, or perhaps even lost. I counted perhaps once or twice where she broke the typical tone of her voice or showed any sort of emotion in her face. It is a low blow to an already deep pit of acting skill the move provides.
What most people point out is the shaky special effects of Maximum Ride, but this might be the most understandable flaw the movie has. It’s considerably low-budget, so how a studio could afford to animate these winged scenes as well as they did is impressive. They’re still bad, absolutely, but they aren’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen. If anything, the special effects are hardly used when you think about it. They’re sometimes bland, sometimes visually-appealing, sometimes downright hilarious, but never good.
There are obviously some subjective qualms about this movie that may simmer in the minds of the fans of the books. Key details such as character appearances, character dialogues, interaction, and various plot points are either altered or removed altogether. Fans of the original book would either ravish in whatever adaptation of their precious story they can get or spit in the face of the disgrace they’ve received. The movie is what could be considered a “good” adaptation based on how directly they followed the book, but they followed it too blindly, without ever considering the consequences of not altering anything from book form to the big screen.
A waste of time, putting it bluntly. The movie gives the indication of a movie long awaited by many, but it seems that through either wasted effort or no effort at all, Maximum Ride is lost potential (assuming it had any) without a clue of what it really wants to do. Poor directing, poor acting, poor pacing, poor writing, poor development. Poor, poor, poor Maximum Ride, a movie of a book I used to love.
Final Score: 1/10