Maximum Ride
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Maximum Ride

Authors who decided to specialize in this genre of literature referred to as ‘Young Adult’ has hit the jackpot. One of the most fruitful sources of material for new movies has proved to offer a rich source of material from novels in this category. These stories geared towards the most popular demographic motion picture industry the 15-24 age groups that find incentive in the fact that it is rare that a single, standalone novel is found in the genre. In most cases the filmmakers of dealing with it typically sizable series of books that immediately lends itself to a movie franchise. It has been such remarkable success translating these books to film that sets such as ‘Harry Potter Harry Potter ‘or ‘The Twilight Saga’ have become box office juggernauts with their success spilling over to the Blu-ray/DVD market. Those of us have aged out of this demographic or perhaps have children, who are past the targeted age, be assured that there is no short supply of young adult fiction in the foreseeable future. One of the latest films that have the potential to start his franchise is ‘Maximum Ride’ based on series of novels by James Patterson. Mr. Patterson is one of the most eclectic authors in literature today. On the ‘Alex Cross ‘mysteries to his ‘Witch and Wizard’ series, there is hardly genre he has not undertaken. The ‘Maximum Ride’ series is an example of the science fiction/fantasy story concerning a group of six children were genetically modified, hybrids of human and avian DNA. This ragtag group of kids with wings has flown through nine novels of adventure so far as they tried to keep ahead of the nefarious scientists that created them and seek to control them. This initial film based on the first book of the series, ‘The Angel Experiment’ which is understandably heavy and exposition. Few movie franchises can explore with excitement directly out of the gate. While it is apparent that this bill did not entirely live up to its expectations, I did find that there was sufficient depth to the characters in intensity to the situations that I sincerely hope they can move on to producing the rest of the series.

The story is primarily concerned with the origins of a rather large group of characters is a good idea to grab the attention of the audience as soon as possible. The movie opens in medias res with ominous pursuers NIL a pretty teenage girl, Max Ride (Allie Marie Evans). She runs headlong away from stopping only when she reaches the edge of a very high cliff. The camera focused on the desperate expression on her face before it slides into a flashback. Max is the leader of a small ‘flock’ of teens and children. A second in command is Fang (Patrick Johnson) is a somewhat sullen young man was Max’s best friend. It can hardly be considered the spoiler that attractive teenage costars would manifest some chemistry towards each other. Next in the hierarchy is Iggy (Zayne Emory), slightly younger than Max and typically takes control of the younger ones when Max and Fang are away on a mission. He is essentially blind but can sense much of his environment. Next in line is Nudge (Tetona Jackson). She is a self-centered tween typically wearing clothing of her design, a hat holding a fashion magazine. It is rare to see her without a hat, home sewn clothing in a fashion magazine in hand. Gazzy (Gavin Lewis, a nine-year-old boy was mischievous by nature with a penchant for building contraptions. He certainly would be on a government watch list since his favorite device to build all explosive in nature. Finally, there is Gazzy’s biological younger sister Angel (Lyliana Wray). At six years of age, she is the youngest of the flock. Besides the enhanced strength and wings common to all of them, Angel can send and receive thoughts. This distinction becomes the primary motivation for this portion of the story.

During the initial flashback, we get a glimpse of home life for Max and the kids. They are squatting in a house divided by Dr. Jeb Batchelder (Peter O'Brien), one of the leading scientists at the facility that created the children. He was personally involved with much of the education and is the most compassionate of all the researchers. He was particularly fond of Max as a child much of the consternation of his biological son Ari (Luke Gregory Crosby). As children, Ari would frequently sneak into the facility torment, Max. Jealousy had reached such intensity that Ari submitted himself to a transformation process that would enhance him with lupine DNA resulting in what is called an Eraser. The other soldiers and enforcers of the research facility, supernaturally strong and agile they are formidable opponents in a fight. One morning Angel goes outside wandering rape near the house. She finds herself set upon by Ari and a small squad of Erasers. Max confronts him but is unable to prevent the abduction.

Overriding the objections to come along, Max leaves the kids with Iggy in charge. After searching Jeb’s office, they have the location of where Angel was taken. Max and Fang fly off mounting a rescue. Along the way, Max sees a teenage girl, Ella (Carrie Wampler) assaulted by a boy. Max swoops in to save her, but during the fight, she is shot. Fortunately, Ella’s mother, Dr. Valencia Martinez (Karla Zamudio) is a veterinarian who is so thankful that her daughter is safe was so thankful that her daughter is safe treats Max with no questions. However, an x-ray reveals an extra set of bones in the outline of wings. He tells Max that she will not say anything that she is always welcome in their home. Obviously, this is a set up for another character to develop later on. When Max and Fang stopped to rest before the assault on the facility, we find that Iggy and the kids have followed them. The joyful reunion is brief since they are immediately all captured and caged. Much of the exposition presented as flashbacks within the main flashback. You see Max as a younger child interacting with both Jeb and his son. We also showed that the devices implanted in her shoulder that is initially thought to be a tracking device. It has been sending back telemetry amasses physiology to the researchers.

Typical any origin story placing is understandably slow. Audiences have become so accustomed to high-octane excitement from the very start of the franchise that they may have some difficulty in adjusting to such drawn-out character development indicative of a generation that has come to the man everything be presented as fast paced as possible. All the franchises have taken an extended time with the development of the stories are typically punctuated with more action sequences than found here. Part of it is the brevity of the film with a running time of only 88 minutes. Ms. Evans appears to be another ‘model turned actress, but she does manage to have a substantial screen presence. She can achieve the main demands of a role in balancing a teenage girl forced to go up faster than usual serving as leader and house mother children, with the uncertainty about life and relationships universal for that age. The boys are going to be particularly interested in the character of Max because of her habit of wearing loose-fitting shirts that have been torn to shreds. Most of the kids we are a variation of this which is not so much of a fashion statement as it has to permit free access for the wings to deploy.

Most of the other children are not provided the measure of development as individual characters. The substantial number of main characters required the showcasing of the primary characters and established the back story and current situation. There are hints that the development of the avian hybrids was as a product line for an unrevealed client. In this respect, the story goes wrong along parallel lines to another current film, ‘Morgan.' This is not unexpected since a current topic of controversy and source of potential fear is genetic manipulation. In our time the same function was served by radiation and extraterrestrials. The film’s largest shortcoming is its inability to function completely as a standalone movie. If we can revisit it after another portion of two of the story has been revealed it will fare much better.

Posted 01/01/2017

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