The little there is written about Shaq’s film career often addresses his first leading role in the genie bomb Kazaam, or his supporting role as a college basketball player in Blue Chips although one shouldn’t forget the several times he’s amiably played himself, most recently as Lego™ Shaq. However, it was his turn following the genie movie, a movie that had Shaq dunking a contorted man-ball (a man squeezed into the shape of a ball via magic) into a garbage can, that stuck with me the longest- Shaq’s turn as DC’s C-list hero, Steel.
Remember that one? The one where Shaq plays a strange version of one of Superman’s early 90’s replacements following Supes’ demise at the hands of Doomsday. In the comic, Steel is a genius inventor and engineer turned superhero that wields high tech armor along with a big ass hammer in his fight against nefarious forces while Supes played dead for a year. Well, if you cant remember that’s ok because this version of the character bares little resemblance with his comic counterpart’s meh, but far more compelling character.
Gone are any ties to Superman, which is instead replaced, all thanks to producer THE Quincy Jones, with a military-origin story that features an urban ghetto setting familiar to the two other people who still remember Meteor Man or that other guy with an orange terry cloth mask. Gone also thanks to the vapid script and Shaq’s stiff delivery is any sense that we’re watching a genius engineer. Instead, Shaq’s Steel takes what’s already a fairly uninteresting character and manifests him as an insane, but not in the entertaining way, man whose choice to wear a heavy suit of steel armor (the most rubbery steel ever created by a black smith) is ludicrous from the get-go.
However I now realize that even more so than the man behind such creative endeavors like Shaqfu, I was the real nut job, far more pathetic than the man who was at the time just starting his period with the Lakers, shooting this movie between the All-Star conference and pre-season training, completing most of it in just five weeks. With little exaggeration, I can say that I’ve spent almost as much time watching this movie in the days of channel-surfing with only a heaping bowl of Apple Jacks for company than Shaq did acting in it. And the thing is I recall not enjoying it at all even then. Not even the absence of parachute pants salvaged it for me.
At the time though I figured this would be the best I could hope for in seeing a comic superhero on screen. It was a dark time when the cinematic Batman was getting further away from the Burton films I’d seen many times over at my cousin Carlo’s place and Blade and the X-Men were unknowingly just around the corner. Yet there was no way then that I could foresee the onslaught of comic book movie adaptations that the next decade would bring. So I watched Shaq deliver bad metal-related puns with nil charm and took it in what passed for self-flagellation those days. This was what comic nerds deserved- a movie loooooosely-related to one of DC’s Holy Trinity characters that culminates in a scene where Shaq Steel, I kid you not, has to essentially shoot a free throw to get rid of a bomb that would otherwise kill him and his young troubled relative, including a line referencing Shaq’s poor free throw percentage.
Despite all this though, I refuse to bury ‘Steel’ into the recesses of my mind alongside the places where rejections from girls and the time I caught my parents doing it reside. A fan of top 10 lists i.e. procrastination incarnate, I’ve always been miffed by its exclusion from worst comic book movies of all time. It’s my hope that some day it’ll regain its rightful place above even Superman IV: The Quest For Peace, but probably below David Hasselhof’s Nick Fury. An angry nerd can only hope.
by André Habet
Squeak of sneakers on the floor
Watch the mangod as he falls
Can’t let Carter see him now
Other eye and you’ll be fine
Just nut up and BEND YOUR KNEES!
- by Meredith K. Nudo