Monday, June 10, 2013

SUPERMAN: The Retrospective-Part VI: STEEL (1997)

Director: Kenneth Johnson
Starring: Shaquille O'Neil, Annabeth Gish, Richard Roundtree, Judd Nelson, Ray J
Rated: PG-13

Well, dip me in shit and roll me in breadcrumbs.
               ~Uncle Joe

I assure you, this is a Superman-related movie.  Back when Superman was killed by Doomsday in the Death Of Superman series, it was followed by a resurrection of sorts.  There were 4 incarnations of Supermen, each claiming to be the real deal.  One of those, was John Henry Irons, and the only one who didn't claim to actually be Superman, but was honoring his legacy.  He chose to go simply by Steel.  Quincy Jones really liked this character and wanted to get a movie off the ground about him, and he did.  While the character's makeup/background is very similar, during the story stage, it was decided to strip the character of all ties to the Superman universe and give him generic supporting characters.

Steel is a film that feels VERY much in tune with a SyFy channel original film.  Only, this was a wide release in theaters.  Its very cheap looking and Steel himself in the costume is absolutely laughable.  Add to that, the fact that nobody seems to know who he is, and you're in for a facepalmer.  Shaq is, well, Shaq in this thing.  He's quite bad, but were you expecting anything else from Shaq?  They also shoehorn basketball in where ever need be.  There's a running gag about making shots (akin to his free throw shooting) that actually comes full circle in the final action climax.  And let me tell you, I burst out laughing at that plot turn.  You joke about things like this in a bad movie, but when it actually happens you just cannot believe it.

The rest of the cast has some familiar faces, but they bring zero to the table.  Judd Nelson is pretty terrible as the villain and feels very much like a rapist instead of a crazy weapons builder.  Annabeth Gish is "eh" and her paralysis is portrayed so clumsily that you can't help but giggle at a few things.  My man Richard Roundtree is here, but he's really on there to make Shaft references and crack unfunny jokes the whole time.  Really, nothing of note.

Is this movie at least so bad its good?  I can't say its the whole way there.  There's a lot of dull, boring stuff going on.  It hits the funny beats here and there, and every time Shaq is in the Steel outfit on the motorcycle its a hysterical sight to see.  The end is a riot, but the whole ride its pretty hit and miss.  For a 90 minute movie it does feel pretty long and boring.  There's too much bad acting and nothing happening filling up the screen to really strongly recommend this on a bad movie night.

You can't really say America didn't like this movie.  They didn't even go see it.  The film had an honest $17 million budget for a superhero comic book film, but only did an astoundingly terrible $1.7 million at the box office.  It doesn't take a genius to see that's beyond terrible.  Did you want to see Shaq play a superhero?  I don't even think his own fans were on board with that.  But, if you're Shaq, do you turn that opportunity down?  Absolutely not.  Not being an apologist for the 4 time champ, he's quite terrible in it, but I don't blame him for taking the role on.
So, yeah, that's Steel.  There's not a whole lot to talk about in it, because there's not a lot it offers.  It did feature a little cameo by John Hawkes, which was pretty fun to see.  But a whole lot of nothing is going on in this one.  At times there's some big laughs, but overall its a pretty big stinker.  Continue to avoid it if you can.

Next time, let's get our mopey-ness on for SUPERMAN RETURNS!

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