Max Steel Review
A LACKLUSTER ORIGIN FOR MAX STEEL
It seems like a lot of famous toy brands are taken the chance / opportunity to make transferring their well-respected toy products into feature films. From animated cartoons like Lego with The LEGO Movie and its upcoming sequels, to live-action CG flicks like Hasbro with the Michael Bay’s Transformers movies, the G.I. Joe films and the Teenage Ninja Turtles movies as well as Saban’s upcoming Power Rangers movie (super excited for that one). Now, seizing an opportunity to join the rest of the toy product gang, Mattel and director Stewart Hendler, get ready to deliver the first live-action film with their product of Max Steel in the movie titled Max Steel. With several animated cartoons / movies under its belt, does the brand of Max Steel deserve a big screen debut or is it “too little, too late” for the misadventures of Max McGrath?
Max McGrath (Ben Winchell) is a 16-year-old teenager, who has recently moved back to his with his mother Molly (Maria Bello), returning to their family home after the death of Max’s father, Jim (Mike Doyle), who was killed in a mysterious accident at the science lab of N-Tek. With the new move, Max tries to fit in at his new high school, finding friendship in fellow classmate Sofia Martinez (Ana Villafane). However, his attention is pulled away by the recent revelations about his body, discovering the ability to emit liquid energy and manipulate electricity. As his newfound abilities to intensify, Max is scrambling to uncover the reason why this happening to him, seeking info from his father’s former colleague Dr. Miles Edwards (Andy Garcia) and ultimately finds a curious helping hand from Steel (Josh Brener), a parasitic silicone alien life form who mission is to join with the teen to become Max Steel, an armored superhero. Conflicted and want nothing to do with become a superhero, Max’s mind is quickly changed with the arrival of the Ultralinks, an alien enemy that takes the form of destructive tornadoes.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Growing up, I was a 90s kids and liked all things that 90s TV shows / cartoons for kids. Power Rangers, Ninja Turtles, Ghostbusters, Sonic the Hedgehog, and all the cartoons shows on Nickelodeon (i.e Ren and Stimpy, Doug, Hey, Arnold, etc.). Unfortunately, growing up, I actually never heard of Max Steel (whether the Mattel’s toy line or its cartoon films / series). So, basically, I walked into the movie with blank slate of knowledge about the character and his storyline. As for this live-action movie, I actually didn’t see the trailer for Max Steel in theaters. I know…. that’s pretty strange, especially since I go once or twice a week to my local movie theater to catch a movie. I finally did see the trailer for the movie (via online) and (if I’m being honest) wasn’t the impressed with it. Basically, I had a sense that the movie was going somewhere between mediocre and being critically panned by many. However, I decided to see for myself if that was truly the case…plus I was having a “lazy Sunday afternoon” feeling. Unfortunately, those predictions seem to be right as Max Steel lacks originality, focus, or any assemblage of vibrance to cultivate an enticing origin story, letting alone a successful starting point for a potential franchise
As I said above, I really know much about Max Steel (the brand), so I don’t consider myself a fan (I’m not saying that this is good or bad thing). I’m just saying that I can’t say what was omitted, kept, or changed in the movie from its overall timeline universe. Just saying! However, if you’re a fan of Max Steel (and are reading this review), letting me know what you think of this movie and its changes.
Max Steel is directed by Stewart Hendler, who has previously directed the film Sorority Row and the TV series H+ and the min-series Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn. Hendler, along with Mattel, takes the superhero approach with the film., presenting Max Steel as an origin story, introducing Max and Steel at the starting point of their journey together. Think of the origin tale of Spider-Man and a bit of first Iron Man movie and you’ll get Max Steel. It works (it fuels the feature’s 92-minute runtime), but could’ve been better. With the film given a mediocre budget, the CG effects used in Max Steel aren’t that bad. It’s nothing revolutionary or anything to be “wow” over, but it gets the job done and believe me…I’ve seen worse.
Unfortunately, Max Steel isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be as it is a far cry from what Hendler, Mattel, and even fans were hoping for. For starters, the movie is very generic. Nothing really about it scream originality as most of its narration elements have been done and redone in multiple films, especially the superhero genre. Rather than trying come up with something new and fresh, Hendler just recycles those standard troupes and mindlessly meanders through them, allowing the movie’s story to run on auto-pilot as events happen and unfold. In truth, there wasn’t enough of action in the feature, saving a lot of its action sequences for the final battle towards the end of the movie. Also, Hendler setups a lot of events in the movie, establishing the character of Max, his powers, and the mystery behind his father’s death. While naturally it’s good thing to do so, it becomes distracting as Hendler seems more interested in establishing the Max Steel universe (for a potential movie franchise) rather than focusing and defining this feature film.
In conjunction with that, Max Steel is predictable as its surprises in its twists and turns, which are revealed in third act, can be seen coming, deflating the actually reveal itself. Speaking of the third act, it’s a bit disappointing. The villain finally gets “unmasked” and battles between him and Max Steel is underwhelming, despite how much it wants to be epic and cool. If I think about the movie wants to big in its scope, but, ultimately, fails and is relevantly small. My biggest pet peeve with Max Steel is how much Max’s armored suit is shown, which is almost non-existent for most of the feature. There at least two shots of him in the suit, but there are quick and brief. Max isn’t shown in the suit (and battles in it) until the third act, which again, feels lackluster, despite how cool the suit looks. Why did they decided to do this? Probably because of budget reasons. All in all, I felt bored watching this movie, which isn’t a good sign.
Due to its limited budget, the film doesn’t go big in its cast, finding a relatively unknown actor, Ben Winchell, to play the film’s central hero Max McGrath. Winchell, known for playing smaller TV projects roles like Finding Carter and Teen Spirt, does a “so-so” performance as Max. His performance isn’t really bad per say (not overacting or bad acting in the role), but it’s nothing great as he doesn’t have the charisma to make the character endearing or memorable. Thus, just being okay. In addition, Winchell looks a bit old to play a sixteen-year-old (maybe a college freshmen age would be better suited to his natural looks). Actress Ana Villafane plays Sofia Martinez, Max’s fellow high school classmate and love interest, in the movie. Villafane’s acting is fine, but her character isn’t really important in the movie, acting just as mediocre teen angst relationship plot device gear. Perhaps the best comes from someone who’s not physically on-screen as Josh Bener from HBO’s show Silicone Valley does the voice work for Steel. Bener’s nervous / fast-talking style voice work lends perfectly to Steel as he proves to have most of the comedic lines in the movie (which actually works well) and, in addition to his CG rendered on-screen presence, is perhaps the most memorable character in Max Steel.
The other noteworthy supporting players in the movie are the more adult actors. Seasoned actor Andy Garcia, who was probably the “big-ticketed actor” in Max Steel, plays Dr. Miles Edwards, a former colleague to Max’s father. Personally, Garcia starts out fine and is for most of the movie, until the third act, which I won’t spoil it, but Garcia insist that type of character and his lines feel cheesy and hokey during those scenes. Actress Maria Bello does an okay job as Molly, Max’s mother. Her acting is fine, but (again) it’s nothing really grand or spectacular from what she’s done before. Lastly, actor Mike Doyle plays Max’s father, Jim McGrath, who does fair job in the role (his scenes are presented in flashback sequences).
The adventures of Max McGrath get its theatrical big screen debut in the new movie Max Steel. Director Stewart Hendler’s film of the Mattel toy sets out to be an origin story of sorts, seeing Max become the iconic character and discovering his power. There’s some fun to be had in the movie, especially with Steel, and the sleek design of the actually armor that Max Steel dons. However, beyond that, there’s very little to like about this movie. It’s bland, lackluster, mismanaged, and quite honesty nothing to rave or get excited about. To me, this was just a failed film project, a misguided attempt for Mattel to join its other toy brand brethren in film adaptations. Because of this, I would say that the movie is definitely a hard “Skip It”. Fans of the franchise or young kids (roughly age 8 to 10) might (and that’s a BIG might) get something out of this movie, but, for everyone else, there’s just nothing super or grand about Max Steel. Borrowing the words from my fellow blogger MovieManJackson (check out his review of the movie HERE), “More suited for straight to DVD that an actual wide release, Max Steel is best left for the scrap heap”.
2.0 Out of 5 (Skip It)
Released On: October 14th, 2016
Reviewed On: October 17th, 2016
Max Steel is rated PG-13 for some sci-fi action violence