Young Ben has playtime interrupted by the real-life versions of his favourite toys and becomes involved in an inter-dimensional war in the short film Gun Metal Max.
I have a love for retro-themed movies. The look, the sound, the feel of them. Anything that helps take me back to being a young boy in the 1980s when I didn’t have a care in the world. A time when I just lived to have fun and use my imagination. Now, thanks to director Jonathan Brooks, I had ten minutes of reliving my youth by watching (and enjoying) his latest short film Gun Metal Max.
Gun Metal Max is everything a short film should be, and it took me by surprise in how much I enjoyed it. Not that I didn’t expect to, but it’s rare that a 10–minute short can deliver so many things on many different levels. Gun Metal Max tells the dual story of two protagonists; Ben, an imaginative, creative little boy, and the eponymous Gun Metal Max, a super hero-warrior from the future. From Metal Max’s point of view, he has been sent on a deadly mission to Beacon City, a place robbed of light by the villainous Shadows. But from Ben’s point of view, Beacon City is a cardboard box in his cellar, Metal Max a toy in his hand, and the super warrior’s mission is a game in his head. This is where things become exciting, as multiverses collide and Gun Metal Max turns from being Ben’s toy to being an ally stood beside him.
The story of a little boy’s toys becoming real is nothing new, but this film does it in an inventive and fun way, and in particular, a way which gets straight to the point. The editing is tight, and a lot of information, character and world building is packed into its the film’s short run time, but delivered in an efficient, punchy, stylistic way.
In the world of cinema, the last few years have seen a surge of 80s action movie nostalgia: Stranger Things, Ready Player One, Kung Fury, Turbo Kid, amongst many more, and though I’m a fan of the genre and style that these films homage, I’ve found the nostalgic re-run to have slipped into pastiche: a forced style covering a lack of heart or thought in a project. While this is true of a lot of these films, I can firmly say that Gun Metal Max did not give off this vibe. The 80s style is warranted and handled well and acts as a shorthand in communicating the movie’s story in such a short amount of time.
The introduction, with the narration and title leading into the basement, is an especially impressive piece of style and speaks with a true passion and understanding for visual storytelling. The music goes without saying: a cool, pulsing synth oozing with retroness, a style I have a soft spot for regardless, performed by Timecop 1983. It’s used well here, and really sells the universe of Gun Metal Max as a badass warrior from the future.
Overall, the film works on a lot of levels, and in doing so achieves the ultimate goal that a short film can, which is to create intrigue and make the audience want more. The short actually feels like a proof of concept for a feature version of the story. I really enjoyed Ian Coulson’s Cinematography for the film, and Jonathan Brooks’ direction impresses in how efficiently we’re overloaded with just the right amounts of plot, story, emotion, and style. Check it out if you love this kind of movie, but especially if you like great shorts filled with heart.