Howdy all you Supercultists out there on the interwebz!
I’m Bad Movie Professor Cameron Coker (BS in “Vigilante Justice” with a minor in “Actor Shaquille O’Neal”) and I’ll be posting my hype-tacular speeches every week along with some long lost speeches from past Supercult Shows!
This week Shaq stars in STEEL!
John Henry Irons designs weapons for the military, but when his project to create weapons that harmlessly neutralize soldiers is sabotaged he leaves in disgust. Nathaniel Burk however has big plans to sell Irons’ inventions on the street and become the most powerful black market weapons dealer in history. Now Irons must take responsibility and wield weapons that can protect the people from his past. Can this knight in shining armor protect his home and stop the violence? With a will of Iron and a Heart of Gold, a new superhero steps forth: It’s Steel.
Starring Shaquille O’Neal, Annabeth Gish, Judd Nelson, and Richard Roundtree, Steel is a 1997 superhero film released less than a year after Kazaam. You’d think the powers that be would learn…
Steel was written and directed by Kenneth Johnson, known more as a prolific writer and producer for television. Johnson has directed dozens of TV movies and even more episodes of TV series but only two feature films, the first being Short Circuit 2 in 1988. Originally uninterested in doing a superhero film and turning down offers to film adaptations of The Bionic Woman, Alien Nation, and the Incredible Hulk. Even when he finally accepted the job for Steel he peppered it with allusions to his previous television work with Alien Nation. The same lack of dedication could be attributed to Shaq himself who was already committed to playing in the 1996 Summer Olympics and training at the Los Angeles Lakers camp in Hawaii. This schedule only left Johnson with 5 weeks to complete filming every scene with Shaq. The entire film was shot in 51 days.
It’s a story that never quite gets old. We start with a film based loosely on some decent comic book material. Add in a TV director who didn’t have enough time to shoot and didn’t even want the job in the first place, who only agreed to the position after someone sold him on the idea of Steel being sort of Blue Collar Batman. Finally we stir in a leading man so dramatically inept that he can’t even star in a Gold Bond commercial without making me cringe but who had to do all his own stunts because nobody could find a 7’1” stunt double for him. That’s what we in the biz call a recipe for disaster of the highest quality!
Needless to say Steel did not do well. It was a box office bomb grossing just over $1.7 million of an estimated budget of $16 million and was criticized heavily for being a shallow money grab riding on the selling power of Shaq’s name, a claim substanciated by Shaq’s rap single “Man of Steel” that reached 185 on the US Billboard 200. Shaq even earned a Razzie Award Nomination as Worst Actor for his performance. The only positive critical word was for Annabeth Grish in the role of the wheelchair-using Susan Sparks who, on top of being praised for her acting, the San Francisco Chronicle wrote “[She] becomes the first woman-in-wheelchair action hero in a Hollywood film. Gotta give Steel some credit for that.”
Steel has a 2.7 on IMDB and an atrocious 12% on Rotten Tomatoes. David Cornelius of eFilmCritic.com writes, “It could be worse. Shaq could be rapping,” and Ryan Cracknell of Movie Views says it “Has the distinction of being one of those movies that’s so bad it actually has some solid entertainment value.” Sounds to us like this movie will fit right in!
Man. Metal. Hero.
The Supercult show proudly presents: Steel!