In between his crime fiction, James Patterson is also a prolific childrens author, having several entire series to his name. The film here is an adaptation of the Maximum Ride series, which concerns a group of children known as The Flock who have been born with wings and other powers as a result of genetic tinkering. The series began with The Angel Experiment (2005), which forms the basis of the film, and continued through a further eight books that follows The Flock from their escape from the laboratory to a search for their origins to being employed by the government as superheroes to their surviving the end of civilisation.
This Maximum Ride film was a clear attempt to jump aboard the fad for Young Adult adapted works that were made through the late 2000s and especially into the early 2010s following the success of the Harry Potter series, the Twilight films and The Hunger Games series. The downside of this is that beyond these successes is a whole line of tentative YA film series that never ended up going beyond a single film see the likes of I Am Number Four (2011), Beautiful Creatures (2013), The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013), The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box (2014), The Giver (2014), Vampire Academy (2014), Fallen (2016) and The 5th Wave (2016).
It is fairly clear why Maximum Ride did not go anywhere as a film for the simple reason that it did not have the A-budget lavished on it that most of the abovementioned other Young Adult adaptations have. Equally, it could just be that audiences mistook the title for an action film I kept mentally confusing it with the Jean-Claude Van Damme film Maximum Risk (1996). It features a cast out of which I have not heard of even a single actor before. Moreover, the entire film is shot in a way that makes it look like a grainy tv show from the 1990s. The special effects are not exactly adequate they frequently look as though the actors are just flying against a green screen.
On screen, the book has been so stripped to a minimum that the film fails to work as a story without the books to refer to. Indeed, you wonder what the filmmakers imagined would have been left to sell the film, beyond the James Patterson name or the pitch of another adaptation of a Young Adult book series. The film opens in the middle of a breakout from a facility we never learn what the experiments being conducted on the children are. Are they mutants a la the X-Men? The results of genetic tinkering? It could be anybodys guess (at least going by the information the film gives us and without referring back to the books). Details like the fact that the Erasers are human-wolf hybrids have been omitted just leaving the Flock being pursued by strange creatures with facial hair and fangs. Even the distinctive characterisation of the kids in the book has been all but pushed to the background with the exception of Allie Marie Evans Max.
The whole film feels shabbily made. It is less the A-budget treatment that you would expect to be lavished on one of James Pattersons books than it is the treatment of product regarded as cable filler indifferently slung together with a minimal professionalism but no care in the production and a lack of experience to most of the performances. The director seems particularly ill adept when it comes to choreographing the fight scenes, which look amateurish. (Not too surprising as Jay Martins previous experience was all in directing teen pop music videos).