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Send 'Max Steel' to the scrap heap

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Toy-inspired fiasco a dull, derivative, cynical cash grab

Movies and merchandising have gone hand-in-hand for a long time. The past four decades or so have seen plenty of films aimed at achieving some sort of crossover into other commercial opportunities. The most successful create merchandise based on the movie; the least successful create the movie based on the merchandise.

Guess which one 'Max Steel' is.

The film, based on a once-popular action figure from Mattel, is stagnant and uninteresting, a toy commercial writ large. With a narrative that's equal parts ludicrous and flimsy and an utter absence of anything resembling stakes, it condescends and panders its way through its 100-minute runtime.

Max McGrath (Ben Winchell, TV's 'Finding Carter') is a teenaged boy who has just moved with his mother Molly (Maria Bello, 'Lights Out') back to the town where he was born. It is also the town where Max's dad was tragically killed in an accident at the vaguely science-y company he led alongside his partner Miles (Andy Garcia, 'Ghostbusters'), who now runs the show solo.

Max struggles with the mystery surround his father's death, but other mysteries soon arise namely, the fact that he suddenly starts emitting some sort of 'liquid energy' that he can't really control. Said energy causes plenty of issues particularly with Sofia (Ana Villafane, TV's 'South Beach'), the girl that he likes because of course there's a girl that he likes.

Things really get weird when Steel (Josh Brener, TV's 'Silicon Valley') shows up. Steel is some sort of alien robot thing that conveniently enough feeds on the same energy that Max produces, leading to the development of a symbiotic relationship that makes less sense the more you think about it. Together, they become Max Steel for some reason.

The unlikely duo is left to battle against sinister forces from both beyond the stars and in their own backyard; it's up to them to save the world.

This is not a good movie. This is a bad movie. It's precisely the quality of film that you'd expect when one of the major production entities involved is a toy company. The cynicism at work here borders on the breathtaking; this is as blatantly crash-grabby a movie as I've seen in ages.

Don't get me wrong - I have real love for disposable kid-centric science fiction stories. I'm not demanding Oscar bait here; stuff like 'The Last Starfighter' and 'Flight of the Navigator' holds a special place in my heart. And I actually hoped that this movie might be a bit of a throwback to those times, action figure-based though it was, as a counterinfluence to the current landscape of bleak YA dystopias. I didn't need it to be good I just wanted it to be fun.

Alas, 'Max Steel' is neither.

Winchell isn't terrible, though he spends most of his time alternating between brooding, looking confused and freaking out. The banter between him and Brener is the closest this movie ever comes to actual entertainment; it manages to occasionally distract you from dwelling on the badness of your experience. The fact that Bello and Garcia are in this movie is testament to the reality that even actors have to eat. Bello who is fairly prolific in genre fare at least makes an effort, while Garcia spends most of the film giving the performance equivalent of constantly checking his watch; he's unabashedly out of sts to give.

The effects work is on the low-rent side and the action sequences such as they are are sub-par. Despite a brisk running time, the movie still manages to feel interminable, but don't worry even if you check out for a few minutes, you're not missing anything of importance. What very little actually happens takes far too long to unfold; you'll have no problem keeping up.

'Max Steel' is what happens when the sole rationale for your film is 'People used to like this toy.' It has little to no redeeming value whatsoever. It is dull and derivative, populated with characters that are poorly-developed and uninteresting. It's full of jokes that aren't funny and the odd unearned emotion here and there. This movie makes the junk kiddie sci-fi of my youth look Oscar-worthy.

Seriously kids deserve better than this.

[0 out of 5]

Last modified on Tuesday, 31 January 2017 19:32

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