Steel (1997)

steel poster 1997 movie shaquille oneil
2.0 Overall Score
Story: 2/10
Acting: 1/10
Visuals: 5/10

So bad it's good

Dialogue, acting, story, most of the visuals

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Steel

Studio:  Warner Bros/Quincy Jones-David Salzman Entertainment

Genre(s):  Action/Adventure/Comic Book

Release Date(s):  August 15, 1997

MPAA Rating:  PG-13

steel shaq armor shaquille oneil

There’s no way a bullet could penetrate this solid metal armor with holes all over it!

In the military, John Henry Irons (Shaquille O’Neal) has made a name for himself as an inventor of weapons that can disarm and stop criminals and armies without killing.  Irons’ nonlethal weapons aren’t enough for Nathaniel Burke (Judd Nelson) who sees the potential of the weapons who accidentally causes a deadly accident which also cripple’s Irons’ friend Susan “Sparky” Sparks (Annabeth Gish).  Leaving the military, Irons has decided to return home but finds crime on the streets of LA.  When people start showing up with weapons that John Henry Irons has created, Irons decides he has to get to the bottom of the crime wave with the help of his friend Uncle Joe (Richard Roundtree) and Sparky…and Steel is born!

Written and directed by Kenneth Johnson, Steel is a DC Comics superhero comic book movie.  The film was released to negative reviews and received a Razzie nomination for Worst Actor (O’Neal).

There were no superhero movies released in much of the 1980s and 1990s…and when they were, they were often stinkers.  I always paid attention to any superhero movie, but I didn’t see them all.  When Steel was coming out, you could tell it was a stinker…but now watching Steel, I can see it is such a good stinker that it is a classic so-bad-it’s-good movie.

steel nathaniel burke judd nelson hammer

Uncle Joe is right…I like the “Shaft”

The movie’s ridiculous in plot and the dialogue is even worse.  Essentially the movie is a long joke about how Shaq can’t hit a free-throw (something he did struggle with) and it of course pays off. The plot has the over-the-top villain, but I do kind of like the villains are doing everything to “sell” weapons on the internet by showcasing the damage they are doing…but logic is out the window.  There are so many things (including his 7’ size) that has John Henry Irons being Steel…like the fact that he’s an inventor, skilled with military level weapons, and hanging out at a junkyard where Steel disappeared.  It isn’t even a question.  The police are possibly the worst officers in the history of police officers (they can’t even find an earpiece in his mouth).

Shaq is bad.  He feels like he’s just reading his lines and it very much could be that he is.  It is emotionless and joyless.  As bad as O’Neil is, Judd Nelson might be worse playing the cool white guy who labels himself “the Man” and (like the police) is really, really dumb.  Annabeth Gish plays almost a version of DC Comics’ Oracle as Steel’s wheelchair-bound assistant and Richard Roundtree plays Uncle Joe (leading to an awkward “Shaft” joke).  Irma P. Hall, Ray J, and Charles Napier also have roles.

steel armor shaq shaquille oneil

Feel the wrath of my hammer…gun

Steel was created as part of the Return of Superman storyline after the death of Superman, but the movie eliminates Superman from the story.  There are references to Superman and Batman, but it is implied that DC Comics might exist but not superheroes.  The costume is clunky and things like Steel’s (rooftop escape) lacks any energy (it also feels like police could have beat him to the roof how slow he is).  Much of the jokes just have Shaq being really tall…that’s it.

Steel is amazingly bad.  It is bad but fun.  You have to watch the movie and question how it got made, but Shaq had a lot of pull at the time…and a sense of humor that didn’t translate to a feature film.  The movie now feels like a kitschy movie that in the world of “real” superhero movies is a novelty film…watch if you dare!

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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