Nathaniel Burke: Eat the hot dog, don’t be one.
Beware: Spoilers may follow.
After the 90s travesty that was Kazaam, Shaquille O’ Neal took another shot at movies by playing a DC superhero. Sadly unlike Kazaam, which has some level of enjoyment in how laughably stupid it is, the same cannot be said for this. In many ways this movie killed superhero movies.
The story involves military weapons scientist John Henry Irons whose work on a new weapon is hijacked by soldier Nathaniel Burke resulting in Irons’ partner Susan “Sparky” Sparks in becoming a paraplegic causing Irons to resign. When Burke hatches a plot to sell his weapons to criminal gangs in the streets Irons, Sparky, and Uncle Joe forge a suit of armor and weapons for Irons to combat the weapons thus turning him into the vigilante known as Steel.
The writing for this movie isn’t very good. It not only constantly references much better superhero movies but very much cannot stand on its own two feet. The movie utilizes many clichés doing nothing new with them making the movie predictable and the writing is cheesy with basketball references and an odd running gag about a soufflé. On top of that it seems to hint at a romance between Irons and Sparky but the way the two act it’s more like they are high school friends. It also doesn’t help that their different performances don’t really lead to any chemistry between them whatsoever
In fact it is not until almost halfway through the movie that the main character actually starts to become a superhero. And when he becomes a superhero he’s rather underwhelming in the way he fights crime and it doesn’t give anything in the way of development.
The story tries to send some lessons about standing up for your community and choosing non-violence as best as you can and the importance of self-respect, self-sufficiency, and personal responsibility but these aspects are overshadowed by cheesy dialogue and being so heavy-handed that they lose their impact.
Shaq’s performance in this is rather stiff. Anytime he’s supposed to show emotion whether it be through his expressions or dialogue, he just sounds bored and uninterested. This is supposed to be our main character and yet there is nothing to make us care about him in any way whatsoever. On top of that the revelation of his costume, which is supposed to give a sense of awe, looks goofy and underwhelming just being a bunch of rubber pieces held together by chainmail. It’s quite hard to believe that the suit could protect him from a single shot of the weaponry he faces off against. The way he moves in the suit makes it so heavy and clunky and makes him look plain inept. The only thing Shaq has going for him in this movie is that he’s tall.
Annabeth Gish and Richard Roundtree fare a tad better. Even through all the cheesy dialogue Gish does manage to give a sense of sincerity to the character being Irons’ “guy in the chair.” Her story about having to overcome the depression of her situation of being paralyzed from the waist down is the only moving part of the movie. Roundtree is mostly a stock parent mentor like character but he manages to give a sense of flavor to the role.
Judd Nelson as the villainous Nathaniel Burke was rather self-conscious in his performance. You could tell he knew he was in a bad movie and barely tries to work with the material he is given.
The movie also has a kid that tags along with Irons named Martin. The relationship between the two is never specified who’s purpose is pretty much to shout out street slang and just gets captured in the climax.
Steel just has horrible performance in its lead and a rather underwhelming superhero. The movie makes no attempt to stay true to its mythos and is just overall sloppy in the writing of its story and characters. No matter what you may think of DC now on the big or little screen, it’s best something like this stays forgotten.