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Awfully Good Movies: Steel (Video)

Steel (1997)

Director: Kenneth Johnson          Stars: Shaquille O'Neal, Annabeth Gish, Judd Nelson

Since comic book fans of all skin colors have gotten to see BLACK PANTHER roar his way onto the big screen, Awfully Good Movies is marking the occasion with an African-American superhero who helped pave the way for King T'Challa's cinematic arrival: Shaquille O'Neal in the 1997 adaptation of the DC Comics hero STEEL! Yes, as if BATMAN & ROBIN hadn't disgraced the name of DC Comics enough in the summer of 1997, we also saw John Henry Irons--the military weapons maker who filled in for Superman after his death--get his own motion picture...only to have him portrayed by a 7-foot basketball player who had just come off playing a rapping genie with attitude. And if KAZAAM hadn't done enough to put Shaq's movie career on the bench, then STEEL helped sideline it for the rest of the season--which is unfortunate, seeing as how legendary producer Quincy Jones wanted a movie superhero who would instill hope in hopeless urban children across the country. But with his lumbering body, monotone line delivery, and metal costume that clearly consists of foam rubber, the only emotion that Shaq instilled in audiences was laughter, especially when you've got him facing off against a wimpy Judd Nelson for smuggling illegal weapons inside arcade game cabinets. Of course, he can't take down John Bender all by himself, so he's got some help from his newly-handicapped fellow soldier Sparky (played by Monica Reyes from THE X-FILES), his junkyard-running Uncle Joe (played by Richard "Shaft" Roundtree), and his little brother Martin (played by sex tape star, and also singer, Ray J). So as we celebrate BLACK PANTHER's tremendous impact on audiences, let us also reflect on how far we have come--not just in terms of racial equality, but also in terms of writing comic book movies which aren't laughably awful...and casting actual actors to play a superhero instead of sports athletes. Seriously, Shaq, we all love ya, but I feel I need to apologize to Michael Jordan for all the crap I gave him for SPACE JAM.

Special thanks to You Have Issues for the footage I used from his informative video on the history of the STEEL comic book: youtube.com/user/jimsicle

Kwaye ukuba ufuna ezinye iziqendu Awfully Good Movies, klikha kwiqhosha le YouTube ngaphantsi kweli nqaku! (FYI, that was the Wakandan translation for "Please watch more episodes of my show.")

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Extra Tidbit: Envisioning Steel as a "blue collar Batman", writer-director Kenneth Johnson made the decision to create an entirely new story with no references to the Superman universe that Steel originated from, though Shaq's Superman tattoo is prominently seen many times during the film. He also wanted Wesley Snipes to play the part, but Warner Bros. insisted on Shaquille O'Neal because they thought he'd sell more toys and merchandise.
Source: JoBlo.com

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