Max Steel, a joyless 92-minute movie based on toy maker Mattel’s action-figure line and animated series, may be the tipping point in the recent spate of superhero movies which causes the moviegoing public to cease caring anymore for such big-budget, cyber-themed sci-fi fare.
After returning to his hometown of Copper Canyon, teenager Max McGrath (Ben Winchell, who looks more like a graduate school student than a pubescent high schooler) suddenly develops electricity-based superpowers and becomes acquainted with an amnesiac robotic orb (voiced by Josh Brener) calling itself Steel. Our hero hides his new gifts from both his mother (Maria Bello) and the cute classmate (Ana Villafañe) who befriends the newcomer, something that becomes even more difficult when he physically fuses with the floating orb to become Max Steel — a visually uninspiring whitewashed pastiche of Iron Man and Tron: Legacy.
The story also rips off Spider-Man comics (updated with cybernetic sprinkles), as the titular hero tries to learn more about the mysterious death of his scientist father. Things get more convoluted as Max investigates the connection his father’s business partner (Andy Garcia) may have had to developing the super cyber suit, and the plot gets downright predictable when our glowing hero faces off against an enemy endangering no one except himself.
That’s right. Max Steel is a superhero movie which features little in the way of anyone being super or heroic, and both the performances and the special effects are pretty bland. Aside from the occasional aerial shot of Wilmington, NC, there is very little reason to recommend anyone actually watch it.
The proceedings are fairly humorless and probably won’t hold the attention of the average pre-teen presumably targeted as its audience. (I had to keep myself from falling asleep in the climactic battle scene — never a good sign for something purported to be an action sci-fi film.) Director Stewart Hendler has primarily worked on video game projects before, but anyone sitting through Max Steel may not press “start” again once this game is over. Apparently, the studio felt this way too as it was filmed more than two years ago and only now hits theaters when no one is looking for it.
The only aspect in the film’s favor is it was mercifully short, and I will try to repay that good deed by ending this review in the same manner. If Mattel, the same company that markets both Barbie and He-Man toys to kids, tries to sell another Max Steel story at the cineplex, they should really just go “get bent” instead. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence.
Now playing at Carolina Cinemark, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Grande 15 and UA Beaucatcher Cinemas 7