It’s time for a superhero film that isn’t a part of the main DC or Marvel comics line. It takes some cues from the classic Spider-Man origin story and the Power Rangers series. By all accounts, this should have led to a film that was leagues above the average film. Unfortunately, this wasn’t to be as Max Steel isn’t a great film. It’s a decently good movie, but parts of the plot just end up being unintentionally funny or even cringy.
The film follows a kid named Max. He’s enjoying his day like normal when a robot appears and tells him that he’s gonna die. For some reason, Max has been emitting explosive particles and unless he expels them once in a while via energy blasts…it will consume him. Max doesn’t want that to happen, but he’s not really sure what to do about it. He’s not given much time to think things over as the robot gives him as Iron-Man suit which completely gets Max on board. “Why didn’t you mention that sooner?” is something along the lines of what he’d say. Unfortunately, a privately owned company filled with antagonistic share holders is after him. Run Max!
One of the things that you’ll notice right away is that the film had a bit of a limited budget. Max doesn’t even get to use his suit all that much because of this. There are only a handful of scenes with him in costume. Granted, those are the best parts of the film. Max’s fight against the Evil Max (Can’t spoil who the main villain is right? Hint, he gets the Golden Parachute) was pretty well done and if the whole film was like that, it would have been quite good. I’m always up for a solid hand to hand fight like that. Max’s training montage also wasn’t bad although it had nothing on Rocky.
Where things get tricky is the human side of things. As Max is your stereotypical Hollywood lead, he believes in love at first sight. This causes him to fall for Sofia instantly. The problem is that Max can be…cringy. That word is overused so I rarely use it myself, but it applies a lot here. We’ll get long scenes of Max just staring at Sofia because he’s at a loss for words. He tends to mumble a lot when they talk because he’s nervous. Max even brings back the 80’s trope of not being able to talk when Sodia is around so he starts spouting gibberish. Max then blows her off at least 10 times for the most mundane of reasons when he could easily explain the situation to her.
Sofia is evidently a nice character as she approaches Max most of the time and helps him fit in at school. Without her, things would have been pretty tough for him. Max just never appears all that grateful. He wants to be with her, but not enough to actually tell her much of anything. The only reason why she sticks around is because this is a Hollywood movie. It doesn’t make much sense otherwise. The biggest issue with Max is that he’s constantly running out of the room in a panic attack. See, he gets these visions and moments of disorientation. Instead of telling people, he dashes off. It becomes so much of a running gag that it’s even played for laughs in one scene. I can’t say that it was very funny though. It just made Max look insensitive again.
At the very least, this film isn’t very subtle. You can accurately predict most of the film right away. The main villain is incredibly obvious when he shows up. It’s meant to be a big twist, but there were no other suspects which is actually the problem. If you only have 4 main characters, Max, his Mom, the heroine, and a rich guy who knew Max’s father before his mysterious death…well it all points to one conclusion. The one part of the film that was a little surprising and came out of left field was the twist about the share holders. The whole time, it felt like the guys who were after Max were black ops mercenaries who destroyed anything in their path. Nah, it’s just a bunch of 9-5 guys who work for the share holders. They were also working for the wrong person as the majority shareholder had to step in. The scene made no sense by the way.
So, the Mom controls the company, yet she is out of the loop on everything. She knew about the aliens and everything, but didn’t know that Max would blow up. She kept the secret of how his Dad died from Max because “he wasn’t ready” but didn’t warn him not to go to the company since it wouldn’t bode well for him. I don’t think that the writers really thought this plot through at all. Don’t worry though, they squeezed in some aliens. There are living tornadoes that live among us. Yeah, I was pretty shook by this news as well. The only way to beat them is for Max to…land a hit against them. That’s not too hard, but it doesn’t make for a very thrilling fight. Also, the film didn’t have time for all of the fights so we get a good way of taking them out all at once at the end which will delay them for a bit. The sequel would probably wrap that up, but this film’s not getting a sequel anytime soon.
The villain’s not one of the smarter figures either. Since Max is a pretty inexperienced fighter with terrible plans..he takes advantage of that. See, the villain can absorb energy so Max figures that he’ll give the villain all of his energy. This will overload him right? I get the concept, but it’s a terrible plan. If the villain is trying to get your energy, then he has probably already thought of a way to do it effectively. The villain has the win in the bag, but then decides to bring Max next to his power supply at the end to make things more personal. After all, he wants Max to be back at full power so he can power up a machine. What he didn’t count on was the fact that Max wanted to use his powers on the villain instead of on the machine. The rest is history, but those two decisions were some of the worst ones that I’ve seen a superhero and supervillain make.
Steel is another one of the main characters and he’s the mini robot mascot of the film. He can’t really fight and is also not that intelligent. This isn’t a great combo. He’s always threatening to destroy Max’s friends and is always trying to drain his energy unexpectedly. Steel never really grew on me. I suppose he gets in a lot of burns, but they typically aren’t all that clever. He could have been worse though and maybe he was just overshadowed by Max. Max really is the worst character of the film with his constant panicking and being slow on the uptake for the new developments. He even uses Bing/Yahoo as a search engine if I recall correctly and that’s a rookie mistake. Sure, the freebies are cool, but you end up losing so much time that it’s just not worth it. A few dozen less “epic” zoom ins on Max and less shirtless scenes would have done wonders for the film as well. They’re just around to pad the time and to try and distract you from the plot holes. That strategy’s never been effective though as scenes of filler are the perfect time to think about past scenes and piece the puzzles together. At the very least, that’s what I like to do. Multi tasking and mentally prepping your review are always good things to do in those scenarios.
Overall, Max Steel was a funny film, but it wasn’t meant to be. It’s one of the rare examples of a cheesy/campy film in the modern era. That at least earns it some points even if it did completely bomb and I doubt we’ll be seeing a sequel. At least the cartoon series did a little better. The visuals are actually pretty good when they happen so it’s a shame that the film didn’t get a bigger budget. The writers/directors are probably glad that they didn’t spend more money on it though considering how hard it bombed. They would have lost even more money at that point. The main thing that could have improved this film would have been a better human subplot or more action scenes. Either definitely would have sufficed since the core premise of the plot is sound, the execution was just a bit off. Max Steel really played it safe on all accounts which may have limited its options, but also prevented it from falling into any cinematic pot holes. As the saying goes though, you can’t win by playing not to lose. This can suffice for a 6, but if the series wants to get any higher, it’s gonna have to improve. I’d recommend checking it out for a decent laugh and to remind yourself that independent superheroes still exist. That being said, it’s nowhere near as good as the average Marvel or DC film.