A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Max Steel is a sci-fi action movie based on a Mattel toy and an animated TV series about a boy who turns into a superhero when he teams up with a comedic alien parasite. Starring Ben Winchell as Max, the movie should appeal to tweens familiar with the brand but will likely be too light on story and action to draw in teens used to the savvier, splashier Marvel and DC movies. Violence includes chases with armed security personnel and a climactic battle in which several people are killed and one person is injured. Romance is limited to flirting, lingering looks, and one kiss between teens. Language is mostly mild insults, "what the hell," and one quickly cut-off "Fuh" sound. Max's father is dead. As in many superhero movies, the message is about the duty of a chosen, extraordinary individual to accept his new responsibility to fight evil.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Based on the Mattel action figure franchise -- which already has a tie-in Disney XD animated series -- MAX STEEL follows 16-year-old Max McGrath (Ben Winchell), who's moved back with his widowed mother (Maria Bello) to the town where he was born. Nearly immediately after returning to parents' former home, Max starts noticing he's got "liquid energy" emanating from his fingers and hands, and it burns. Eventually Max meets snarky, flying Steel (Josh Brener), a bio-organic alien technology that used to work with Max's dead father. Steel consumes the energy Max radiates; together they can harness a form of Turbo power that creates a suit. But when armed operatives start chasing Max and Steel, it's clear that others know about their powers -- and want to harm them.
Is it any good?
Surprisingly unfunny and dull, this action figure-based superhero adventure is a waste of talented supporting actors Bello and Andy Garcia (who plays Max's dad's former business partner). Both are consummate thespians, but even though they do their best with the thin material, they can't save Max Steel from being forgettable. And although Winchell has performed well on TV shows like Finding Carter, he isn't charismatic in this uninspiring role.
But that's not (all) his fault, because while initially promising, the movie devolves into a snooze with predictable enemies and a plot that's got so many holes it seems desperate for a sequel it absolutely shouldn't indulge. Steel isn't half as funny as he should be -- but next to loner Max, at least he tries. Love interest Sophia (Ana Villafañe) is limited to playing the "cool girl" who knows how to fix a car and a bike; there's little chemistry between her and Winchell. Ultimately this is the kind of film you might stream for bored tweens, but that's not worth the price of admission.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why superhero stories like Max Steel are so compelling. What do they tend to have in common? Which superhero type does Max Steel fall into?
How does the violence in this movie compare to what you've seen in other action/superhero movies? Do all types of media violence have the same impact?
Discuss the relationship between Max and Steel. Can you think of other superheroes who have to work closely with a suit or specific weapon or accessory to function at their best?
Did the toys and/or show make you more interested in seeing this movie? Is there a difference because the inspiration came from a toy company rather than a comic book?
- In theaters: October 14, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: January 10, 2017
- Cast: Maria Bello, Ben Winchell, Josh Brener
- Director: Stewart Hendler
- Studio: Open Road Films
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Superheroes, Robots
- Run time: 92 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some sci-fi action violence
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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