Max Steel (2016)

I wish Mattel would stop forcing Max Steel on the unsuspecting American public. After many years, the company insists on introducing this action figure line in its new forms, and it’s exhausting to say the least. Back in 2000, Mattel re-introduced Max Steel in a very entertaining CGI cartoon with the main character as a cybernetic spy–because CGI and spies were big in the early aughts. When trends shifted, Mattel re-re-introduced the character in 2013 in to a younger character and in the mold of a pseudo-Iron Man since Iron Man has changed how movie studios approach science fiction now. After that failed, Mattel has given us Max Steel once again, and turned him in to a cybernetic superhero with an enigmatic past. This Max Steel is an amalgam of Guyver, Iron Man, and Star Kid, and is an infinitely grating, and ugly kids film.

I didn’t want to go in to this movie hating it like everyone else did. I love superheroes, and I love movies about cybernetic superheroes and underdogs fighting evil organizations. But it’s like the director and Mattel spent about eighty percent of the budget casting Hollywood heavyweights (and often brilliant actors) Andy Garcia and Maria Bello, to slum it in what are essentially just supporting roles in this brand new attempt at a franchise. The rest is essentially a dull superhero origin tale where we follow one dimensional All American boy Max McGrath who forms a symbiotic relationship with a sentient smart talking robot named Steel. Max begins developing superpowers and realizes he might have some kind of control over electronics and whatnot.

Conveniently Steel comes along to guide him in to realizing his destiny and teaching him about responsibility and fighting evil. Steel, and every character not named Max are basically just there to relay exposition for the audience. The writers tell, tell, tell rather than simply showing us the character’s evolution and how he progresses. “Max Steel” is aimed squarely at teen and tween boys so the writers tell everything and never show us. With the movie only being about ninety minutes, viewers that actually track down this toy commercial, might be saddened to see Max and Steel combine in to armor man for brief spurts of action, and only in the final half hour. When Max Steel is in action he looks like a high tech skiing outfit Tony Stark might build, while the inevitable villain played by Garcia bears a shocking similarity to a lower tech Ultron.

The rest of the movie consists of the pair bickering, learning to bond, and Max learning about his origin through jarring flashbacks. “Max Steel” isn’t just ugly, but it’s boring, and it’s a shame considering the concept at least has potential. Director Stewart Hendler films the movie through a weird brown and orange tint that makes the movie look dim and dull. Rather than bright and almost like a comic book, Hendler tries to fit the manic energy in to a Ridley Scott tint of warm colors. “Max Steel” is certainly not going to win over any new fans or customers for the toys any time soon. The movie is warmed over, half baked, and wastes a lot of potential for fun scenes of Max in his armor doing battle with aliens. Maybe we’ll get that in the sequel. Oh wait…