Do the Mario

Under Max Reload’s melatonin-inducing, overused nostalgia, there’s a means to explore videogaming’s insular, brash culture. In this movie’s world, games infect people, turning them into uncaring monsters. Ask anyone involved in gaming, whether via multiplayer or social media, and yes, videogames too often bring out the worst in us – or the community in general.

The games industry is growing up. It’s a difficult transition. Max Reload isn’t inherently helping; a lock on ‘80s tropes and recalling things like the Power Glove and Nintendo Super Scope keep things locked down into what videogames were (as if clinging to The Wizard). For a business so poorly preserved by game media companies themselves, movies adore using those bleeping sounds and pixel art. There’s a baffling disconnect between fans and studios, thus Max Reload trying to bridge the two.

Max Reload is too soft to really take a stance

Max Reload wants nothing more than to be a close friend. Characters like Nintendo and NES Zappers and Sega Saturns. Where studio-produced slime like Pixels sought out a mid-life crisis fantasy based around Pac-Man, Max Reload’s independence allows leeway. The vernacular doesn’t require tiresome exposition, and overall accuracy to classic gaming is best-in-class (if still taking liberties), aiming to be chummy, or even part of the crowd.

While seemingly a complaint, the dorky, awkward production style fits such a movie, if also clinging to broad stereotypes about tortuously anti-social hermit men in basements, who succeed only when in-game. That’s Max Jenkins (Tom Plumley), lost in his life, wasting years working at a retro game store, failing to capitalize on his own coding talents. He’s the hero, of course, because like videogames, that power fantasy is central to the enjoyment.

Max Reload’s fight comes against evil spawned by a newly discovered, unreleased game, which when leaked onto the internet, turns players into hateful zombies. Before the chaos, YouTube commentators demean the find as fake, and a scrolling chat floods with indifference. Of course, those same people download and play, their angry spite now visible without anonymity.

Sadly, Max Reload is too soft to really take a stance. Again, that cozy, buddy-buddy vibe matters so no one is offended, and the only introspective element deals in letting the past go or finding common ground. Bullies introduced in the opening act barely matter by the end, the true villain a digital in-game figment so gamers can game to save the world, Kevin Smith can have a cameo role, and Lin Shaye pops up because her horror movie validation fits into the general cultural sphere.

Video

The digitally shot images pose little challenge to this Blu-ray. Excellent clarity follows Max Reload for its full runtime. This doesn’t lead to any exceptional, impressive detail; it looks older among other films of this digital era. Blame a lesser budget, or maybe copious visual effects.

Overall color saturation brings some kick. Glowing red eyes hit a pleasing high, and eventually, LED lights adorn demon-fighting weapons to add more notable heft. Routine flesh tones and other elements stick with natural accuracy, neither over or under cranked – just… right.

Deep black levels strike when needed, giving the game store scenes density, plus a key confrontation late in the parking lot. Shot primarily at night, Max Reload looks as such, benefiting from the darkness. No contrast issues to report either.

Audio

Moderate stereo separation happens in this 2.0 PCM mix. The majority comes during the finale as an ax is swung, splitting speakers as it moves. There’s little else worth mentioning, center-focused and restrictive, likely by budget.

A mild low-end accentuation impacts a few key action moments. It’s nothing deep or spectacular, just enough to feel a tiny rumble.

Extras

Co-directors Scott Conditt and Jeremy Tremp join for a commentary, a trend for some of the bonuses here, including a look at the animation where they speak for nine minutes. Effects get their due in a similar montage, as do two separate scenes. A fun run through production set to music runs 24-minutes, introduced by Greg Grunberg.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Max Reload and the Nether Blasters
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3

Movie

Rife with nostalgia, tropes, and sleepy storyline, Max Reload still finds a little energy in approaching videogames through their culture.

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