Director: Kenneth Johnson.
Screenplay: Kenneth Johnson.
Story: Kenneth Johnson.
Release Date: 1997.
Runtime: 97 min.
Genre(s): Action, Adventure & Crime.
Cast: Shaquille O’ Neal, Annabeth Gish, Judd Nelson, and many more!
Opening Weekend USA: $870,068.
Gross USA: $1,710,972.
My Overall Rating:★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ (2/10).
It’s probably easy to get carried away by the perks of superstardom. Who can blame you? Retired superstar basketball player Shaquille O’Neal clearly knew how to make the most of it. Besides becoming a four-time NBA champion throughout his career, he ventured in various other spheres as his fame, his size, and his humour allowed him to become an iconic figure for the public eye. Although his rap career could warrant plenty of attention, or just criticism, what he went on to accomplish in cinema requires much more resilience than the human being could ever garner. We’re obviously not here to discuss his performance in Kazaam (1996), which at least was somewhat tagged as comedy, but, in fact, we shall revel at the opportunity to look into the second movie of all time to present a comic book superhero played by an African American: Steel. Unfortunately, this societal achievement is short-lived as this movie joins the ranks as one of the worse DC Comics movies of all time.
What is Steel about? The story follows John Henry Irons (Shaquille O’Neal) as a United States military soldier with a specialization in weapon development. During a crucial preliminary weapon test, his comrade Nathaniel Burke (Judd Nelson) decides to crank up the sonic cannon’s configuration to its maximum potential in a display of virility and causes an incident that will hospitalize John Henry Irons’ best friend Susan Sparks (Annabeth Gish). Following the discharge of Nathaniel Burke, an outraged John Henry Irons decides to resign from his duties and go back to his hometown. However, consumed by vengeance against John Henry Irons who served as a witness to prosecute him, Nathaniel Burke decides to illegally sell modified weapons to gangs and become a monopoly in arms dealing, but John Henry Irons has other plans as he goes on to take justice into his own hands and stop this chaos from getting any worse.
Let’s get it out of the way. Similar to Catwoman (2004), this movie completely disregards the source material and prefers recreating the character to fit the story that they want to tell. No problem. The producers simply wanted Shaquille O’Neal to play a non-superpowered human hero to inspire a younger population that had a tough time seeing the light down the tunnel. But Steel is so much more and by completely disregarding his lore, you instantly kill off any chance of captivating an audience. So, who was Steel supposed to be? Following the events in The Death of Superman, where Superman takes on Doomsday and bites the dust, we see the rise of four mysterious Supermen in the Reign of the Superman story arc. Among those heroes is Doctor John Henry Irons who builds a super-powered armoured suit with a cape and a hammer as he dons Superman’s logo and attempts to replace the Man of Steel for a short period of time.
Can you imagine the disappointment when you get this cheap iteration of Steel that never takes off—literally—and has no connection to Superman besides giving the Big Blue Boy Scout a quick nod by zooming into his logo in the form of a hidden tattoo? To further ignore the DC universe, they also have cops making jokes about the Batcave. Come on. They shouldn’t even know such a thing! All that being said, does this story have any redeeming qualities? Absolutely not. But I’ll give it this. It’s so bad that it’s actually funny. The movie is essentially a slightly-higher-budgeted television episode about a hero taking down a villain in all of its cliché glory. There are more plot holes in this piece of entertainment than in Swiss cheese yet has all the rot and maggots needed to keep it indigestible for just about anyone. Everything is simply soaked in superhero banalities and glued together to deliver a terrible movie about vigilante heroism and unacceptable quests for power.
I think Arnold Schwarzenegger would be proud of this garbage but that won’t stop me from acknowledging its absence of any form of quality. Leave it to Shaquille O’Neal’s cringe-worthy smile composing more than half of the scenes in this movie to kill his character’s charisma. Even if we were to overlook that, his acting skills were nowhere to be found. The horrible editing and cinematography accentuate these phenomenal shortcomings by offering us incomprehensible sequences (including the 90s style action scenes filled with explosions and loud noises) long enough to have your head retracting itself in horror. The rest of the cast isn’t any better. The villain makes you wonder what teacher forgot to punish this man as a child for his social and intellectual incompetence. The technological wheelchair sidekick will make you doubt your own education with her ability to create the impossible with absolute garbage. The inevitable-and-mandatory character filled with wisdom might actually be the only legitimately entertaining character but Shaquille O’Neal’s larger-than-life presence overshadows him nevertheless.
I guess it’s true. Trash is trash. They sometimes say that hip-hop makes anything look better but even the score in this movie can’t save this mediocrity from itself. Did I also ever tell you about my theory about superhero movies? If there’s a basketball sequence in it, you know it’s going to be a bad movie. And this one had plenty of references to it, especially with Shaquille O’Neal’s infamous reputation to be unable to shoot a free throw to save a life. But this time around… He has to if he wants to live. In the end, you simply shouldn’t dare check this out unless you know what you’re getting yourself into. After all, my brain switched off quite quickly, just after the opening credit sequence worthy of an excruciatingly boring metallurgy class. I then followed what a wise person once told me: laugh on the outside, cry on the inside.
Steel (1997) is a mediocre action movie that fails to inspire but succeeds to offer a phenomenal cringefest.