Move over, Spider-Man: you’re no longer the only teenage superhero in town. Allow us to introduce Max Steel, the action figure-turned-animated series hero who’ll transition to the big screen in 2015 (following a stop at this month’s San Diego Comic-Con).
”It’s very much designed to be grounded within the teen experience,” explains director Stewart Hendler, who says that the film has a Friday Night Lights-meets-Marvel vibe. Besides, he continues, “I’m a sucker for coming-of-age stories that [relate] how difficult it is to be a teenager.”
Hendler (Sorority Row) talked us through this set of exclusive photos from the upcoming action flick.
POWERING UP: Max Steel is a superhero-origin story about a 16-year-old named Max McGrath (played by Ben Winchell, seen here in the climactic “power chamber” scene) whose body inexplicably starts to generate massive energy bursts that he can’t control. After he meets Steel, a techno-organic extraterrestrial, the duo forms a symbiotic relationship that harnesses their combined energies. “Neither of them can live without the other, and they drive each other crazy,” Hendler explains. “But when they work together, they can actually be something cool.”
PARENTAL GUIDANCE: In the film, Max and his mother (Maria Bello) have just moved back to a small town called Copper Canyon, the same municipality where Max’s scientist father died mysteriously shortly after he was born. Taking on a mentoring role is Dr. Miles Edwards (Andy Garcia), who Hendler describes as “one of the keys for Max to unlock and figure out what the heck is up with his powers and what happened to his dad.”
SMOKIN’: "This is the moment where Max’s powers, which start out a fun, quirky thing that he can mess around with, start to overwhelm him, and become something that he can’t control and actually seem to threaten him physically," Hendler says. "This is him about to overload for the first time." Hence the smoke.
BLUE STEEL: Hendler says the extraterrestrial Steel — aside from a very few shots like this one — will be completely CG-animated. “Ben was talking to nobody on set, which was pretty funny,” he laughs.
DREAD ON ARRIVAL: The movie’s central mythology was adapted from the animated TV series (considering there’s not too much backstory to a toy), and that mythos includes the villainous Dread. Hendler takes pride in the fact that the rogue’s suit was made by Legacy Effects, the studio that’s created famous suits and creature designs in such films as Iron Man, Avatar, and Pacific Rim.
SICK DAY: Though Twilight alum Taylor Lautner was originally attached to star in Max Steel, Hendler couldn’t be happier directing Winchell. “I’ve worked with a ton of young actors, and he’s the most likely to become a legitimate star,” he says, “and for all the right reasons.” The actor underwent a grueling two-and-a-half month training regimen — including Parkour and martial arts — to prepare for the part. “He had to go to the hospital once because he got so dehydrated and collapsed,” Hendler says. “I think he’s actually sort of proud of that, though. “
ENERGY SHOT: Designing the Max Steel costume — seen here in its concept phase — meant overcoming myriad challenges. “It was a complicated concept because Steel and Max both create what you see. Steel takes Max’s energy and converts it into matter and wraps that matter around him. Just defining what that would look like took a while.”
Hendler and team ended up with this design that combines elements both “crustacean-like” and more robotic-mechanical. “It’s almost like they’ve fused together,” he says. “Max has this energy that threatens to overwhelm him and he can explode. And this is almost like a protective barrier.”
Photos: Dolphin Films