Shaquille O'Neal, Annabeth Gish, Judd Nelson, Richard Roundtree, Irma B.
1997, 97 Minutes, Directed by: Kenneth Johnson
Whenever somebody complains about how X-Men could have been better, one need just remind them of how bad it could have been: as bad as 1997's
Steel opus based on a minor DC comic book superhero starring basketball player Shaquille O'Neal.
Or rather don't, because it would appear that no one has ever seen it.
(Use Batman & Robin and Spawn, two other 1997 comic book movie duds, as examples instead.) The moviegoer public sometimes has an uncanny sixth sense when it comes to avoiding crap and in this case it appears to have served it well.
Unfortunately that same sixth sense deserted me when Steel recently showed on TV one night. "Mmmh," I thought to myself. "I ought to review it for my web site. Besides, how bad can it be?" Chewing off your own leg to escape it bad? Oh yes. Sticking needles into your own eyes instead bad? Oh yes.
Sometimes bad movies of this nature can be quite fun. They can have an air of cheerful campiness about them that can be enjoyable. (Steel is directed by one Kenneth
Johnson who directed the 1983 TV series V, which had such a sense of kitsch fun about it.) Unfortunately
Steel isn't one of those bad movies.
Instead the movie is a clunker, much like its hero garbed in a hokey costume that seems to be made of junkyard metal leftovers. Its sappiness and excruciating sentimentality weighs it down, much in the same way those "little Johnny gets new legs" TV movies of the week are weighed down.
Having wheelchair-bound people in a movie shouldn't be an excuse for syrupy cliché-ridden cheap attempts at emotional manipulation (witness the excellent Waterdance movie), but Steel can't resist the temptation. Also, the movie can't resist indulging in every possible cliché offered by the superhero genre - there's nothing in here we have seen that hasn't been done before. And done better: the action sequences are lame and uninspiring, the acting horrible, the dialogue leaden and the disco-like soundtrack seems stolen from a 1970s blaxploitation pic.
When a character was asked in the recent Scary Movie spoof what her scariest movie was she has seen, she replied Kazaam (the 1996 dud also starring Shaquille O'Neal). One can only assume that she hasn't seen Steel . . .