Max Steel
Universal // PG-13 // $19.96 // January 10, 2017
Review by Ryan Keefer | posted March 24, 2017
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The Movie:

I thought at quick brief glance that the film Max Steel was one of two things: looking at the back of the cover it perhaps fell into the niche of features that had a weird mythology that few over 30 knew about, or it was a docudrama about a wrestler or cage fighter with surreal domestic circumstances. Turns out the former was right, but in a way I wasn't anticipating.

Christopher Yost (Thor: The Dark World) wrote a screenplay which Stewart Hendler (Sorority Row) directed. The story is not inspired by a comic book character or video game, but rather an action figure a la the G.I. Joe movies, though Max Steel became popular in the late 90s' and I was in my late 20s and wasn't playing with action figures anymore, that I'm aware of. Max McGrath (Ben Winchell, The Last of Robin Hood) discovers he has strange powers, particularly when he runs into a technology-laden small creature named Steel, voiced by Josh Brener (The Internship). When the two combine forces Max becomes a suit-wearing superhero, which captures the attention of Dr. Miles Edwards (Andy Garcia, Kill the Messenger). Max tries to embrace this role to which he isn't accustomed, while we all witness it and the powers available to him and Steel.

Just to put it out of the way, it's not that I don't dismiss movies on video games or handheld action figures out of hand; I grew up on the animated G.I. Joe episodes and liked them a lot, maily because there may have been a serialized element to the show that I associated to it then (and have no idea if it holds up now). Moreover, I would like to think I am open-minded enough that I would give a movie, or movies about an action figure a shot.

With prejudices out of the way, there really isn't anything that Max Steel does that distinguishes it from most other features in similar territory. Max deals with these new and strange things by talking to his mother (Maria Bello, Grown Ups 2) or sort of girlfriend (Ana Villafane, Kill the Messenger), and when things get copasetic then all the world is a stage for him.

But the journey to get to that point is something we've seen in a ton of films before, it's almost as if the filmmakers thought they could get them by people? Basically take the first Spider-Man, but make the spider be a flying robot. And have Peter Parker live with his mother instead of his old Aunt and Uncle. Not even the trying in the world from this ensemble could save this dog.

I really don't have a problem with films like Max Steel if they are made well. This wasn't and it showed quite clearly as things went from acts one to three in ways anyone who's ever seen a superhero film would recognize. I would have appreciated an effort when it came to the film, and it didn't even do that much.

The Blu-ray:
The Video:

The AVC encode befitting Max Steel and it's 2.40:1 widescreen presentation is solid if unspectacular. Colors are reproduced fine whether it's Max's blue suit or Miles' red one, and the quieter moments of reflection and/or confusion from Max, things are lit gently and look good. Image detail has its moments but is not consistent or mind-blowing, flesh tones and colors are accurate with no push or saturation problems. Looks good, feels good, or something.

The Sound:

DTS HD-MA 5.1 lossless surround for Max Steel, which starts out with dynamic range for the opening moments when Max is trying to figure out what his powers are. In other moments of fight sequences explosions rock the theater with low-end fidelity, and in lesser profound sound moments like avoiding a truck, sound effects are clear and pan effectively. Dialogue sounds clean as can be and required little adjustment and the overall listening experience is pretty darn nifty.

The Extras:

There's a standard definition disc and digital copy of the film to go with a paltry amount of extras. "Finding Max" (4:24) looks at the casting of Winchell and the cast and crew's thoughts of the newcomer, "Imagining Steel" (3:37) looks at working with a CG character, "Building the Suits" (3:05) is fairly self-explanatory, and "Behind the Stunts" (3:00) looks at the wire work and stunt rehearsals and Winchell talks about how he adjusted to it.

Final Thoughts:

Max Steel has the unenviable task of trying to inspire life from its lifeless source. By the story is executed in such a way that it doesn't give you much reason to enjoy it because it borrows from a ton of other mythologies without creating one of its own. Technially, the film looks good but sounds far better, and the supplements are bland. Most folks could probably take the Max Steel figures and carve out a better story than the Max Steel tried to do.



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