Max Steel is a live-action film based on the animated series, which is based on the Mattel toy figure. Although I wouldn’t personally label it as such, Max Steel is a superhero film, away from the heavyweights of Marvel and DC. It’s hard to conjure up words to explain how awful some of the scenes in this film are, but thankfully, there are a few decent moments in the opening third stopping it from achieving a zero score.
Max Steel follows the adventures of a teenager, Max McGrath (Ben Winchell), who moves from town to town with his mother, Molly (Maria Bello), in order to escape a disaster that befell his father when he was only a baby. After years of running, Molly finally decides to move them back to their hometown, which is where Max begins to experience a few strange occurrences, which co-incide with electrical surges within the town.
As many of may already know, I don’t watch trailers for blockbuster movies. That said, Max Steel didn’t feature on my list of blockbuster films, and far from it. But the trailer didn’t seem half bad, although even then it reeked of old cheese. To my utter surprise, the film was upbeat and humorous off the bat, allowing me to overlook a lot of the regurgitated storyline that unfolded, not to mention the strange pacing of the events leading up to Max McGrath finding and nearly perfecting his newfound powers and skills.
The wheels quickly come off for the film once Max starts learning to control his new powers and putting his skills to use. Even quicker than Rey managed to tap into her Jedi powers, Max learns how to jump, run, and fly, skills that would take at the very least a few days to get the hang of. Even more unrealistic is his fighting abilities he gains, and unless he has a history of some basic training, could take months to do.
The movie spends a lot of time explaining the cause of the freak accident that killed Max’s father, along with a build up to the possible enemy. Throughout the film, however, you can’t help but see through this setup, but even more strange is how the build up is just that. Nothing comes of this, and without dropping any spoilers, leaves a huge hole in the plot. But once we do get to the inevitable stand-off between the protagonist and the villain, Max Steel goes from barely plausible and annoying, to downright cringe-worthy. The fight itself is as stiff as the story, with the dialogue even more painful to sit through. Director, Stewart Hendler, attempts to mimic some aspects from the Iron Man films, even including the in-helmet view of Max and the villain, which ends up being nothing more than a red or blue shaded face grunting at the audience. This happens so much that we sometimes forget what the two are even fighting about, let alone why the villain decided to go down this path of hate and vengeance.
Another of the oddities about the film is its lack of marketing leading up to the South African cinematic release on 18 November 2016. Apart from a few posts on a handful of sites in South Africa, and even fewer trailers, the movie received very little marketing. I would have expected that since Max Steel is based on a toy, there should have been a lot more of a tie-in, and a lot more angle at engaging children to lure them into watching it. But, if you were to ask South African kids who Max Steel is, there would very little response in return.
Max Steel delivers a mixed bag of tricks in a sloppily put together film. The comedy is good in parts, corny in others, but still bearing throughout the film. The action sequences, dialogue and overall pace make it an easily forgettable experience. Superhero films will continue to be the go-to for Hollywood over the next few years, but if this film is anything to go by, it might die a horrible death as it starts to annoy movie patrons, even if there are still a few good movies within the genre.