Even toys aren’t safe from Hollywood’s addiction to adaptations, are they?
Alright, so I actually never played with these toys as a kid. I was a die hard Star Wars action figures kid. I knew they existed, but only in the cartoon form, though I never watched that either. Bottom line, I haven’t the slightest idea what this stuff is all about. This movie will be introduction to all things “Max Steel.”
The film stars Ben Winchell. He got his start on TV movies mostly, but has since been seen in a couple TV shows, like, FINDING CARTER. So really, this will mark his first big film debut. Congrats, sir. Lending his voice to the character Steel is Josh Brener. Primarily a TV actor in shows, like, SILICONE VALLEY and MARON, but did have a bit role in THE INTERNSHIP (2013). In support, we have Maria Bello. This woman’s been everywhere from LIGHTS OUT (2016), A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE (2005), and THANK YOU FOR SMOKING (2005). Finally is Andy Garcia, one of the more well-known and popular Hispanic actors out there, having been in films, like, GHOSTBUSTERS (2016) THE GODFATHER: PART III (1990), and THE UNTOUCHABLES (1987).
Now for behind the scenes. Directing is Stewart Hendler. He’s a relative newcomer, having done mostly short films, a couple of unknown and not-well-received films like SORORITY ROW (2009) and WHISPER (2007). But he did direct the popular TV mini-series HALO 4: FORWARD UNTO DAWN, so his skill-set could go either way with this movie. Writing the script is Christopher Yost, a name all you nerds should know. He wrote THOR: THE DARK WORLD (2013), and created and wrote a few episodes for TV shows IRON MAN: ARMORED ADVENTURES and WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN. Keep an eye out for his name because he’s slated to write the upcoming Thor sequel THOR: RAGNAROK, due out 2017. Composing the music is Nathan Lanier. He’s primarily a documentary composer, but has been attached to one unfortunate film: JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS (2015). Our deepest condolences, sir. But before anyone calls his career doomed, he did compose for FORWARD UNTO DAWN. Finally, the cinematographer Brett Pawlak, making his involvement a FORWARD UNTO DAWN reunion, as he was attached to that show as well. Beyond that, he did THE MEDDLER (2016) and WE ARE YOUR FRIENDS (2015).
Overall, I have no real expectations for the movie. I like the more well-known star power, and I feel like the crew is suited to a lighter sci-fi action flick, but it’s still in the same vein as the Transformers movies: they’re about toys. But hey, TRANSFORMERS (2007) was good, maybe this won’t be bad either. IMDb has a great starting rating for it at 7.6/10 (as of 10/12/2016). RottenTomatoes has no official score yet (as of 10/12/2016). But… I don’t know, I’m open to it being good, prepared for it to be bad.
This is my honest opinion of: MAX STEEL
Max (Ben Winchell) is a teen who has moved around so much with his mom, Molly (Maria Bello). So he takes it with a grain of salt when she says that they’re staying in their latest town, his birth home, convinced to move there by an old friend and partner of Max’s long-dead father, Jim (Mike Doyle), a brilliant and ground breaking scientist who died during an accident. The friend, Miles Edwards (Andy Garcia), is eager to show Max the company his father built. But not long after Max moves in, he starts to realize that he is starting to show supernatural change; the ability to control electrical currents. This awakens an amnesiac cybernetic alien parasite named Steel (voiced by Josh Brener), who warns Max that they need to work together to remember what happened to Max’s dad and of the impending danger of a hostile alien race known as the Ultralinks.
Have you seen SPIDER-MAN? Have you seen any of the Iron Man movies? Have you seen any “new kid on the block” story? Fantastic! Then you’ve seen MAX STEEL. Not kidding, it hits all the same notes as those stories. Dead parent, new kid in school who gets laughed because he’s late, and close-up face shots surrounded by fancy tech stuff. Definitely unoriginal.
At first, you’d think the movie will show some serious promise. Before the titles roll up, Max immediately starts to manifest his powers. Okay, not a lot of superhero movies start off the bat quite that soon. Heads up though, it’s probably not until forty-five minutes that those powers get realized full time. The rest of the runtime is standard character establishment, like the romantic lead, Sofia, whose name we don’t learn from any introduction. It’s revealed off screen and uttered by Max. Weird…
Speaking of Sofia… I have no idea what to say about her. I mean, does she really contribute that much to the story, other than be a pretty face? Really think about her. Ana Villafañe is a fine actress, but her character is on par, if not worse, than Mary Jane from the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films. Mary Jane barely contributes anything to those stories other than be the pretty face. Peter loves her, but she does very little to earn that love. All she does is get into danger and Spider-Man has to save her. In all three films, no less. But you can argue that she has enough presence to at least be liked by the audience. Sofia on the other hand may not annoyingly scream as much as Mary Jane, but her involvement could have been completely removed from the story and it would progress fine. Big shock to superhero movie writers out there, superheroes don’t always need women to ogle over! Especially using the age old cliché of “love at first sight.” Yup, that’s how that relationship gets sparked.
Let’s also not forget Max’s complete disregard for her safety. There’s a point in the story where guys with guns are trying to capture both Max and Steel. A chase happens, Max on his bike, and he (quite sporadically) meets up with Sofia. Those man are still hot on his heels and what does our hero do? Puts in harms way by asking her for a ride to Miles’ company building! Because, that’s the sensible thing to do! I mean, you have an alien cyborg who’s shown you how to tap into your powers, which you don’t use, and if you combine yourselves, you create a super-suit that amplifies those powers, permitting you to fight back with ease, but NOPE, the smartest thing to do is involve your not-girlfriend! Yes, the logic is absolutely brilliant, just like when I was told that two plus two equals fish.
I’m actually a little tired of seeing this kind of superhero story: his powers are a secret to everyone. I know he’s freaking out when he randomly discovers his powers, but he has a very close relationship with his mother. I can’t imagine that she’d react badly to his abilities. Also, isn’t it kind of a little too coincidental that as soon as they arrive at his birth home, where his father also died, is suddenly when his powers start to manifest? You’d think the first thing you’d do is be all like, “Uh, Mom? Something you wanna tell me?” I really wish there’d be more superheroes that make the extreme choices: tell your loved ones about your powers, or cut them off completely. I these heroes that try to balance a normal life with their incognito life rarely ever works out. I mean, Batman gets away with it because any meaningful relationship he has is ironically as Batman, not Bruce Wayne, and any relationship as Bruce Wayne that ends because of all the secrecy, you never really get the sense that he cares a great deal. It’s a constant trope with other heroes to see secrets tear apart their relationships and acting like it’s a big surprise. Max keeps secrets from Sofia, and even promises to explain himself to her, but, A) that never happens, and B) she never addresses that it doesn’t happen and is perfectly okay with it. No consequences do bad habits. Marvelous…
Also, Steel’s annoying. First off, he has the same personality tic as Oh from the animated movie HOME (2015): mistaking adjectives for nouns. Both characters think “my mom” is the name of the character, “My Mom.” Example:
Dude, my mom’s going to freak out if she sees you!
Is My Mom… dangerous?!
Yeah, that’s really a thing in both movies. It was annoying in HOME, it’s annoying here. But more on Steel himself, he never shuts up. It’s as if incessant talking and pointing things out somehow makes him the comedic relief, but it’s teeth-grindingly infuriating.
I give the movie some credit, in that I didn’t see the twist coming: Steel is a rogue Ultralink. It makes sense, as far as the story goes. The Ultralinks control the elements, although the audience is only shown that they control the wind, and Max and Steel control electricity, so… clever, I suppose.
But I don’t think it came as any shock that Miles was the bad guy. I mean, it’s Garcia. He frequently plays jerks and assholes.
And also, for one good twist the movie has, it’s followed by a bad one. Like… a really bad one. Max’s father was an alien. And… that’s all we’re told, that’s all the characters need to know, apparently. There’s no details surrounding this detail at all. It’s just, “Dad’s an alien. You know… like everyone else’s dad.”
The movie is wholly unoriginal and completely forgettable amidst the slew of real superhero movies being released. It has no original ideas of its own, making it no surprise that there were no advanced screenings for critics. While I won’t say this movie is insulting, I’ve seen worse movies, and worse superhero movies, it’s still nothing special to show fans of what I’m sure is a popular toy and cartoon franchise. Not recommended. Don’t waste your time, don’t waste your gas, don’t waste your money.
My honest rating for MAX STEEL: 2/5