HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Max Steele
HTS Overall Score:71
Superhero movie are almost a staple in the last decade and a half. We’ve had everything from the popular (“Superman”, “Ironman”, “Spiderman”), to some of the more obscure (“Guardians of the Galaxy”, “Antman”), but there is one thing they all have in common. They’re a part of our everyday film culture. There’s been a glut on the market and with a glut of really good superhero films also comes a plethora of wannabes and stinkers. Now the original “Max Steel” animated show in 2000 was NOT a stinker. It was a surprisingly fun show that started out on the WB (now known as The CW) and then had to be shifted to Cartoon Network after some financial troubles with the parent production company. It starred a half human, half alien boy by the name of Max who comes into some incredible technology that allows him to use his innate alien powers to become the hybrid fighting machine “Max Steel”. Simple really. Now I was SUPER excited to see one of my favorite tv shows that I binged in college to come to the big screen, but was a little bit hesitant due to the very obvious DTV release coming out. Well, looks like my worries were actually my own version of a spidey sense as this live action version of “Max Steel” is pretty painful to watch.
The movie follows the basic premise of the show pretty decently (at least on a superficial level). Max McGrath (Ben Winchell) has just moved back to his home town after a life of moving around from location to location with his mother Molly (Maria Bello). Naturally Max is a bit suspicious when his mom says that this is the last time they’re going to movie, and exhibits all of the classic traits of the disgruntled child. He’s back home, but now he knows nobody in town except his dead father’s old partner, Miles Edwards (Andy Garcia). You see, Max’s father Jim (Mike Doyle) was a brilliant scientist and the entire town knew him as a visionary in bioelectronics and power sources. However, Max knows virtually nothing about his father’s personality etc because his mother seems to want to keep things tight lipped. Trying to fit in with the rest of the townsfolk is a bit daunting, but this all changes one day when Max realizes he can generate energy from his fingertips.
Yup, Max isn’t exactly normal, per se. His newfound abilities are scaring the tar out of him, but things are only about to get worse. His power’s emergence has also awakened a new friend. An electronic machine that has lain dormant for the last 15 years has come back to life, and it seems to want to make friends with Max. Calling itself “Steel”, this new machine helps Max bring out the true hero in himself, even if that means making himself a target for a mysterious group of mercenaries who seem bound and determined to hunt the two down. Well, that and the fact that there are supposedly super alien beings who are trying to destroy the earth (even though they get maybe 5 minutes of screen time).
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=88098[/img]While I said that “Max Steel” was a DTV movie that is not entirely true. It DID make it to the theaters for a few scant weeks, but the film bombed so badly that it didn’t even make back its $10 million budget and limped out of theaters in humiliation. While I didn’t see the reviews for the theatrical release until recently I think I can understand WHY it bombed so badly. “Max Steel” is full of plot holes and suffers much the same fate that “Warcraft” did earlier this year. It’s so bent on creating an origins story that sets up future films that it fails to actually tell a compelling story in the here and NOW. You’re sitting there wondering just WHO Max is, and what Steel is as well. The movie does nothing to dispel those questions but just asks the viewer to accept that “these guys are super strong aliens”. Together they form a symbiotic relationship that imbues Max with the classic super powered suit (with his Tachyon energy creating body as the power source), and like most of these films Max suddenly learns just how to become a ninja just by watching (no REAL technique or training needed).
I won’t spoil the end, but the main villain is so blatantly obvious that you have to be asleep at the wheel to miss the surprise “twist” at the end. Well, with only about 5-6 real characters on screen it’s not hard to whittle down the numbers either. In fact, that’s the worst flaw of the movie. There’s so much transparency in the plot that nothing can really come as a surprise. Max’s origins, his main enemy’s identity, and even the shoe horned “semi” romance between him and schoolmate Sofia (Ana Villafane) is blatantly obvious from the get go. “Max Steel” seems to be slurry of other films, blending pieces of “Batteries not Included”, “Spiderman”, and of course “Power Rangers” into one low budget extravaganza.
Rated PG-13 for some sci-fi action violence
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=88106[/img]“Max Steel” comes to Blu-ray with a decidedly solid looking 1080p transfer in the scope aspect ratio. There’s nothing particularly jaw dropping or amazing about the digital photography, but it looks very well done to say the least. The film employs a rich blue color grading, and while there’s some grey to the image, that doesn’t mean there isn’t enough primary colors to go around that are NOT blue. The reds and blacks of the enemies pop off the screen with almost neon saturation, and the greens of Max’s forest home is quite fetching. Fine detail is very solid indeed, and the facial detail being shown is revealing enough. The main issue that keeps the film from looking great is persistent banding. Every time we have a dark shot with a light in the middle of it banding occurs. It wasn’t OVERLY aggressive or annoying, but very obvious on even a smaller 50 inch screen.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=88114[/img]The real stunner for Universal’s Blu-ray/DVD combo pack is the audio track. The 5.1 mix is a pure powerhouse of super hero explosiveness with a visceral energy that is intoxicating. The dialog is well done and well balanced with the aggressive mix, while the surrounds and LFE channel get LOTS and LOTS of activity. The explosive power of Max and Steel together make for some thunderous moments of deep bass, and the constant use of mechanical and battle sounds in the surround channels keep the immersion levels high. Listen to the battle between Max and his nemesis at the end. Bits of cement debris fall in the background and the humming of the Tachyon energy bursts is deep and powerful.
• Finding Max
• Imagining Steel
• Building the Suits
• Behind the Stunts
“Max Steel” is basically a math formula for making a super hero film. It follows everything that makes your average super hero film to a T, but ends up being just as boring and dry as your average math lecture. I really wanted to like the film as I have a weak spot for the TV show, but sadly it fizzles and buries itself within the first 15 minutes of the short 93-minute runtime. The main characters, besides Ana and Ben, seem bound and determined to sleep walk their way through the film and the below average special effects and weak fight scenes do very little to elevate the film visually. While the video is good and the audio great, there is very little else that is worth praising in this very lackluster piece of digital cinematography.
Starring: Maria Bello, Andy Garcia, Ben Winchell, Josh Brener
Directed by: Stewart Hendler
Written by: Christopher Yost
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 93 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: January 10th, 2017
Buy Max Steel on Blu-ray at Amazon
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