By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Sluggish 'Max Steel' isn't ready for the big screen
Ben Winchell in "Max Steel." - photo by Josh Terry
"MAX STEEL" 1 stars Ben Winchell, Josh Brener, Andy Garcia, Ana Villafae; PG-13 (some science fiction action violence); in general release

Theres a kind of vagueness about Max Steel that seems to be covering for a lack of substance beneath its sheen. Based on the Mattel toy and game series, director Stewart Hendlers Max Steel is the origin story for a superhero that doesnt feel ready for the big screen.

Ben Winchell plays Max McGrath, a ponderous teen who, alongside his mother Molly (Maria Bello), has just returned to the small town where he was born. The two of them left when Max was just a few weeks old, following a tragic lab accident that claimed the life of his scientist father Jim (Mike Doyle).

As they unpack, Max and Molly discover that their old family home hasnt been touched in the last 16 years, right down to the generous stock of Spam in the basement fallout shelter. But thats just part of the weirdness that tracks Max like a loyal puppy.

Every time Max gets around anything electronic, strange things happen. Phones short out around him and he can disturb the broadcasts of the Kung Fu movies that play on perpetual loop on his TV. Then, pretty much out of nowhere, magic floating particles start streaming from his fingers he calls it liquid energy when he runs his obligatory Google search. A normal person even a teen might look for professional help at this point, but logic isnt one of the film's strong points.

In the meantime, a mysterious robotic probe named Steel (voiced by Josh Brener) has awakened from the deep recesses of Papa McGraths old lab after no coincidence 16 years. After blasting its way past security, Steel searches out Max with some strange news: Together, they are to defend the planet against an invading alien force called Ultralinks.

Essentially, Max and Steel will work kind of the way Tony Stark works with Jarvis to make Iron Man. If they are in harmony, a suit of armor will appear that will channel Maxs powers. But Maxs powers are alien, and much more vague than Iron Mans rockets and laser beams. In fact, aside from an instinctive grasp of martial arts, its hard to nail down exactly what Maxs powers are.

But never mind. Before realizing his destiny, Max must understand what happened in his past, so he seeks out the help of Dr. Miles Edwards (Andy Garcia), a well-dressed ex-colleague of his fathers. He also enlists the help of a local girl named Sofia (Ana Villafae), who also must figure into his destiny seeing as she almost hits him with her car twice.

Much of Max Steel feels as obligatory as the heros female counterpart. Winchell and Villafae feel like attractive placeholders more than romantic leads, and though Bello and Garcia are welcome presences, their parts are far too thin to lend any real substance to the film.

Stripped down to its parts, Max Steel is a sluggish mix of vague mystery, flashy visual effects and stretches of expositional dialogue plugged into explain pieces of the story after the fact. It feels like a pale shadow of many, many better science fiction films and superhero stories from decades past.

After an 1 hour and 32 minutes on screen, Max Steel just doesnt have anything of its own to say. If the popularity of the toy was strong enough to bring the story to the big screen, fans wont find much in Max Steel to justify the wait.

"Max Steel" is rated PG-13 for some science fiction action violence; running time: 92 minutes
Sign up for our E-Newsletters