Max Steel 2016
I’m a few days behind, but after watching this, I have covered every single comic book and superhero movie released in the US in 2016. I missed it in theaters because everyone else did. It was only in my area for one week and I was busy that week, but it’s out on home video now so I reluctantly caught up with it. I knew nothing at all about Max Steel the toys, or the cartoon, but based on the trailer it looked like a lesser version of Power Rangers without the giant robots and only one teen. And that’s pretty much what I got out of it. This is really the definition of standard teen superhero origin story that hits all the markers and never really makes a name for itself to stand out in the crowd. It’s not an awful movie, but it’s so mediocre and unoriginal in nearly everything it does that it’s a complete bore. And even though it’s unlikely that it matters, since this is a relatively new movie, here’s your warning that I will be discussing the movie in full, including potential spoilers.
Like most teen superhero origin stories, this one starts out in high school. Max is the perfect teen protagonist. He’s incredibly attractive, but isn’t a jock. He helps a bullied kid pick up his books, so he has heart, but he’s not a nerd. And of course, an attractive high school girl just happens to almost run him over with her truck while he’s riding his bike and they immediately hit it off in a weird way. And on top of that, the teachers seem to know and respect his dead father. Honestly, this film feels like it cribs so many notes from the Amazing Spider-Man minus Max himself being a science genius that it’s not even funny. He has a mysterious scientist father who died when he was young. His father had a partner who eventually becomes the villain of the movie. While this wasn’t directly in Amazing Spider-Man, Max Steel as a superhero is actually an alien symbiote even though it calls itself a parasite. There’s even a very similar exploring-his-powers scene in an abandoned building. It also cribs from several other bad superhero movies by having one of the villains be a giant cloud for some reason.
One of the biggest problems with this film is that there is way too much set up and not nearly enough payoff. For the entire hour and a half movie, there’s really only one action scene at the end. There’s very little mystery, and what mystery there is is extremely predictable. If anyone has ever seen an origin story before, they can see Andy Garcia’s betrayal coming a mile away. There’s a brief chase scene in the middle, but the rest is just teen dramedy and sparkles coming out of Max’s hands. The ending was also reminiscent of 2003 Hulk’s ending where he defeats the villain by giving him too much of what he wants until they explode. None of the characters really get much development. Max is an extremely boring and personality-less teen who’s kind of good at everything, but doesn’t have anything to stand out. The love interest has a bit of spunk to her, but fares pretty much the same.
The one bright spot in this film is the character of Steel himself. It doesn’t come anywhere close to the lovable nature of Baymax from Big Hero 6, but Josh Brener does a good job of bringing the humor as well as a bit of pathos to the character. Another interesting aspect of this origin story is the way that it explores how he perceives his powers through the use of sound design. When Max starts to come into his powers, he begins to emit tachyon energy which causes interference to electronics and makes sparklies come out of his hands when he becomes emotional. But every once in a while it will overwhelm him and when that happens, there is a sonic cue and the sound of everything else around him drops out and becomes muffled. It was something quite unique and interesting, but it just wasn’t enough to save the film from itself. The rest of the powers and backstory didn’t help much either. From the entire vocabulary of this film: the enemy aliens are called Ultralinks, Steel refers to them going turbo, the tachyon energy, it all seems very much aimed towards a younger audience. And yet there is likely to be more action within a single thirty minute episode of the cartoon then there is in this entire movie.
Max Steel is pretty much a failure on all levels. It’s incredible that Andy Garcia and Maria Bello are attached to this project. While their performances in the film are good for what they are, there’s just nothing of substance surrounding them for it to matter. There was a slight twist in the story that was surprising when it’s revealed that Max’s mother is actually involved in a lot of what’s going on, but is still on Max’s side, but once again it wasn’t nearly enough to improve the bland and emotionless story that had played out to that point in the film. There is just so much waiting for something to happen. Steel doesn’t even really show up until about halfway through the movie. It’s no surprise that this film tanked at the box office, not even making up its paltry $10 million budget. I just hope that the same does not hold true for the much higher profile and budget Power Rangers film coming out in just a couple more months. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.