Yawn-inducing Max Steel has minimal appeal

Movie | Campy sci-fi flick targets tween boys
by Bob Brown
Posted 10/17/16, 02:04 pm

The filming techniques and script of the live action Max Steel seem akin to those of a ’90s Saturday late-morning television show. At times, the film’s so bad it’s laugh-out-loud funny. Writer Christopher Yost and director Stewart Hendler surely took their work seriously, but most viewers won’t, except for perhaps some in the 8- to 12-year-old boy crowd.

Mattel created the Max Steel action figure nearly 20 years ago, soon after commissioning a CGI-animated TV series. In the live-action film, teenage Max (Ben Winchell) returns with his mom to the town where he was born. His father, Jim (Mike Doyle), died mysteriously one night 16 years earlier while working at bioscience firm N-TEK. Through conversations with Jim’s former partner, Miles (one-time Oscar nominee Andy Garcia), Max begins to piece together the events surrounding his father’s death.

The film’s first 10 minutes promise something of a thriller that adults might dig, but the arrival of Steel (voiced by Josh Brener) crushes that hope. Steel is an ultralink—in his own words, a “parasitic, silicon-based life form.” If you’re not down with the technical jargon, that means a white, drone-like object roughly the size and shape of a large crab with a single, glowing blue eye and voice that’s a slightly masculinized version of Dory from Finding Nemo.

Max’s principal concern, from which his new love interest, Sofia (Ana Villafañe), hardly distracts him, is to figure out why machines shut down when he walks by. He Googles “my fingers emit liquid energy” to no avail, but Steel explains Max is producing tachyon energy. If Steel doesn’t absorb this energy—nourishment for his own survival, in fact—Max will explode and die.

Max slowly accepts their symbiotic relationship. Steel says together they must harness their power to save the earth from the evil ultralinks, which don’t actually seem to set their sights beyond N-TEK’s facility. Generating a fiendish funnel cloud (think: an EF5-rated smoke monster from Lost), one evil ultralink comes after Max.

“Go turbo before it reconstitutes the wind,” Steel tells Max, probably urging him to flee. But who knows. Some of the banter is nonsense but, on a few occasions, campy fun.

“I need your phone, your truck, and a pair of rubber gloves,” Max pleads with Sofia during a critical moment, in what ought to earn a place among the 100 most memorable movie lines.

Alas, the film also suffers from predictability and Power Rangers-esque costuming, but to its credit, Max Steel (rated PG-13 for some sci-fi action violence) has no explicit language, suggestive material, or gore.

Bob Brown

Bob is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute’s mid-career course.

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