Friday, 5 July 2013


Duuur-dur-dur-dur-duuur, duur-dur-dur...

That's right you!  Superman is back but of course in our super-post, post, post modern, ironic, meta, self-aware times he's not allowed to be in a film that's not embarrassed to have its contents on the tin as it were so old Supes gets the blockbuster does avante-garde title Man of Steel:- A film in which Clarke Kent forgoes red knickers and uses his powers to torment truck drivers and take part in a battle more destructive and horrifying than a hundred 911's.

So, as per The Frugal Film Forums' agenda, let's have a look at MOS alternative, Steel.

They say most things work in cycles and whilst our current crop of comic-to-film movies goes from strength to strength, things weren't going so well for the capes back in the eighties and nineties.

After the decline of the Christopher Reeve Superman movies, DC decided to give his moody mate Batman a crack at the cinematic whip.  A stonking success, Batman should have been the X-Men of its day, paving the way for more than just its own sequels.  Instead the ball was fumbled and dispite the odd rays of hope offered by the likes of The Crow and erm...we watched adaptions such as The Phantom and The Shadow entertain but ultimately underwhelm.

Steel, starring a basketball playing man called Shaquille O'Neal opened in approximately fourteen cinemas worldwide, leaving me to assume that every attendee got a room to themselves.  Based on a character spawned in the wake of Superman's now infamous death, the history and character of John Henry Irons gets completely retconned even though he only debuted in comics four years prior to the films release.

'Shaq' plays our protagonist as a...wait for it...a high-tech weapons designer.  I'll let that sit with you for a moment.

"What you looking at mate?"
When one of Irons' weapons actually hurts someone the genius inventor realises guns are bad and decided to stop churning them out for his clearly despicable employer Burke, as played by the formerly cool Judd Nelson.

A bit later, presumably whilst collecting his dole money, Irons' witnesses a robbery carried out by a gang using guns what he did make.

Angered (I think.  It's hard to tell with Shaquille's range) by the fact that his designs are being used to threaten people in his 'hood rather than out of his field of vision, Irons decides to clam the situation by tooling up himself and building more firearms and shit so that he can blow shit up but, this being a family-friendly film, in a weirdly harmless way.

Crippled in the aforementioned accident, Irons' friend Susan 'Sparky' Sparks (for fucks' sake) goes to John Henry's wheelchair accessible hideout (take that Supes and Bats) to help out with the scheme know.

The pair are - for some reason - assisted by an old man called Uncle Joe, as played by the formerly cool Richard Roundtree.  His contribution to proceedings seems to involve uttering things an annoying audience member might say/reassuring old sage words.

Irons' plan largely involves him milling about in a suit so far removed from its inspiration he may as well have been dressed in a bad fancy dress Scooby-Doo outfit and looking for evening television friendly crimes that don't involve swearing, killing, raping or anything beyond borderline high-jinks.

One of the super-smart inventors weapons is a hammer that is a gun if you hold it the other way around.  You know.  Like you did.  When you were a kid.

Anyway, this large, softly spoken man who is a known weapons and specialised armour designer disguises himself with a helmet that makes him look a bit cross-eyed but is still eminently useful.  Nobody at all mistakes this large, softly spoken man who is a known weapons and specialised armour designer for the large, softly spoken man who is a known weapons and armour designer carrying weapons and specialised armour.

Well anyway, Burke plans to make a few quid selling Irons' guns and shit to various villainous stereotypes from around the world.  To be honest, it's never really explained why a gun that Burke uses to shoot one of his own colleagues at the auction he holds is any better than one of the guns that can be quite happily bought with a six-pack and a pack of doughnuts at the corner shops.

Steel of course interrupts the auction, only to be stopped in his clunky tracks by (sigh) the 'revelation' that his nemesis has Sparky held hostage.  Stripped of his revolutionary arsenal (the aformentioned big 'ammer), Steel is threatened with use as a test dummy for his own weapon; that is until the previously sharp (for this movie) and wary Burke falls for the same level of trickery that has your dog running for a stick you never threw.

With her super friend back on his feet, the recently kidnapped Sparky reveals that she had wheelchair lasers all along, leaving the bad guys and viewers reeling with bafflement confusion.  Then, in a scene that already doesn't look after itself any more, Sparky also reveals that her chair can get her off the set as quickly so the the 'action' can continue.

In a shoot-out that makes those in the A-Team series look footage taken from a Ugandan gunship massacre, we see just how rubbish JHI's weapons are and Irons save the day with, of all things, a basketball throw?!  Who said meta was a recent thing?

After a bunch of explosions in which nobody is killed, Burke dies for the sake of closure because he is loosing IQ points with every passing minute of the film.

During a pointless conversation with the army chief that has apparently been chasing Steel, Irons declares his job done with a promise that he won't be seen around.  Even the most cheap and tawdry horror flicks tend to sign off with some allusion that someone involved might want a sequel but it seems that even before its release, no one wanted to ride this pony again.

"Shit.  I thought you said Shazam"

Steel ends with a scene containing more knowing glances than are swapped in George Michael's local public toilets in a week and is so sugary I almost lost a foot to diabetes.

There have been other stories of men running round outside the law, belting people with hammers:- from Thor to Peter Sutcliffe, but if you prefer your action Saturday afternoon flavoured and for a STEAL (pun very much intended, alright?), you can might give Steel a go.


  1. I was never aware of this film before reading this... I am going to pretend that I still am.

    Did he have a catch phrase though?
    Batman has "I'm batman!"
    Ironman has "I am Ironman!"
    and Superman has...well, he doesn't really have one but still, I would have thought STEEL would have had a witty scathing one liner to instil fear and dread into the heart of all his enemies.... something akin to "Yo mama" or "Oh SNAP!" or some such back talk heard throughout many a Ghetto in the ol' US of A.

  2. Yeah but this is TV ghetto where the gangs are mixed race and nobody does a swear. I think we have to open up the floor on that one but I do think a catchphrase only works if the character intends to come back. People complained that Bruce Wayne only clocked up a short time as Batman in the new films but this guy was at it loke what? A bank holiday weekend at best?