Nostalgia? Not exactly. Teenager Max McGrath (Ben Winchell) knows everything about moving around, nine times in 16 years he’s lived in different places with his widowed mother (Maria Bello). They’ve returned to the city where Max’s dad, a legendary scientist whom Max knows little about, died to begin life anew.
Randomly, Max begins to emit energy from his body, and attracts a small robot-like extraterrestrial named Steel, who claims the two have to work together not only to keep Max alive, but to protect Earth from incoming dangerous beings. Together, the duo is Max Steel.
Yours truly is 26 as of this writing, so I am (or was?) a 90’s kid. Everyone knows about the Hey Arnolds, the Power Rangers, the classic 90’s Disney channel movies, and the like. Back in the day, I had collected action figures of some of the lesser-known TV shows that I watched religiously, such as Beast Wars, Big Bad Beetleborgs, and Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog. All of this is to say that I don’t remember Max Steel ever existing in my life, despite apparently having a top selling toy figure and short-lived original animated television show. The weekend box office returns pretty much paints the picture on Max Steel’s 2016 movie. No one knows about it, and probably for good reason. It’s forgettable and mostly bland.
With the marketing being so nonexistent for this one, I don’t even recall seeing a trailer. I basically went in blind with no expectations of the story, the characters, etc. In about five minutes however, it is extremely easy to see how matters play out in this 92 minute runtime. It’s a conventional origins story with a little bit of romance and teen angst thrown into a blender together; think mainly Spider-Man with a little Iron Man and even the old video game series Jak and Daxter. For a film named Max Steel though, it does take a little while to actually see Max Steel in action.
There are a few brights spots, such as Steel, who has got some fun lines and OK comedy. And the visuals, while not exactly stellar, aren’t too bad (save for the ending where the CGI looks pretty shoddy inside of the helmets). But overall, little of it is interesting, for a few reasons. Again, so much of it is predictable, one just knows how each character fits and who’ll be the antagonist.
But questions, like where Max’s dad originates from, or why the bad guy chose to do what he did beyond the “I wanted power” route, or even how a small floating orb can attach himself to a human and make a full suit of armor, aren’t answered. The worst (slight spoiler) easily has to be when Max’s mom states why she never told her son about what truly is going on, because he’s still a kid and can’t handle it. He’s 16! Terrible writing.
This isn’t the feature that announces Ben Winchell’s arrival in Hollywood. Nothing’s outright deplorable but he possesses little, if any, charisma to elevate his titular character to anything more than a low-rung generic hero, with the same shocked face throughout. It doesn’t help him that Max is written to be somewhat unlikable, and only accepts Steel when there are no other options. If recent roles in Lights Out, Prisoners, and McFarland, USA are anything to go off of, Maria Bello has settled into being a wife/mom of varying emotional degrees. The simple casting of Andy Garcia serves as a dead giveaway for the entire plot.
More suited for straight to DVD that an actual wide release, Max Steel is best left for the scrap heap. Probably didn’t need me to tell you this.
Photo credits go to yahoo.com, collider.com, and comingsoon.net
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