Tuesday, April 16, 2013

First Impressions: Max Steel

Between My Little Pony, Transformers Prime and G.I. Joe, these past few years has seen a lot in the way of toy pushing reboots, and with them joins Mattel owned Max Steel.

Max Steel was a line of action figures produced in 1999, and accompanied by a CGI series that lasted for 3 seasons. This was not a series I followed closely, only catching glimpses of reruns while trying to watch reruns of Roughnecks: StarShip Trooper Chronicle, so there will be no comparisons to that series in this overview. Max Steel was then succeeded by a series direct to DVD movies and mini clips on Cartoon Network, scattered all the way up until 2011.

This new series is a full on reboot of the Max Steel line, changing origins, names and other elements of the series. And well. I like it.

The series start is a 3 part origin story, giving us the main cast, main villain, and expected gimmicks at an extremely fast paced. The basic story, Max McGrath has Turbo energy, that manifests after a chase with some bullies. Apparently turbo energy is volatile and could explode him, but while some N-Tek agents, one of which is his uncle, appear and attempt to contain him for the rest of his life, he merges with a synthetic Organism that's all 'hey I totally feed off this for my survival and I can contain it for you.' Stuff breaks, action was had, and you see the primary antagonist by the end of Ep 3. And that's your start, teenage kid that produces unlimited energy for some reason with a self-aware power suit that is stuck to him for the rest of his life.

From episode one, it become abundantly clear that in this series, if you blink, you will miss something. Even in re-watching episodes I noticed full scenes I entirely missed because I had to turn around to talk to someone. This is not a leisurely watch, it is a constantly moving force, certainly something to pay attention to if you really need some action NOW. This could generally be a deterrent for me, however the team on the series seems to be fully aware of this pacing and works it to their advantage, never lingering on anything that could be tedious. It's something to be appreciated when the series focuses for a moment on some of the 'civilian' interactions.

One of the best examples of this is the 'girlfriend' character, Sydney Gardner. In the first episode, he literally runs into her and by episode 2 they are dating. We don't have to suffer through all the painful, hero introducing himself and being awkward bumble over the token girl obvious potential love interest character and just cut to the chase. And we don't even have to suffer through painful 'misconception' plots involving super hero identities. 'We know you're aware this character is going to be the girlfriend, let's just get that out of the way now.' I admit, there's nothing that makes me want to pull my hair more than contrived relationship tension caused by extremely trivial things that could be resolved by some very simple communication. (especially when it done to paint the girl as irrational) Even in the one instance of potential girlfriend stealing in episode five, it is resolved so casually and cleanly. The fast forwarding a very obvious token girlfriend relationship is honestly a relief in this case.

So now that I've already gone on a tangent about token girlfriend characters in superhero series, I should probably give a rundown of my impression of the cast

Max McGrath: Generic white male teenage protagonist, average good kid, sorta bland IMO but not awful. He's full of 'turbo energy' for some reason not explained either because they are going to later or they don't see the reason to 'he just has turbo energy, go with it'
Steel: The wisecracking, sharp witted, synthetic life-form that fuses with Max and provides all his abilities and uses Max's turbo energy to survive. He is also adorable, incredibly expressive and just dang fun to watch, I love him. In some ways, compared to Steel, Max feels like the sidekick, and this entertains me immensely.
Molly McGrath: AAAAAAHHH I LOVE HER SO MUCH, I LOVE HER SO MUCH, AAAAAAAAA. INSTANT WANT TO COLLECT MOLLY MCGRATH TOYS, MATTEL YOU BETTER MAKE AT LEAST ONE OH MY GOSH AAAAAAAAA. Oh gosh there are so many ways mother characters can go so wrong, and too many writers take the mother bear thing waaay to seriously, making them unreasonable and overprotective to the point of harmful and argumentative. But by Ep 2 it's all BTW dis lady is a secret ninja and already knows what the deal with that secret they're trying to hide from her and when she finds out the stuff with Max suddenly getting all power suited at first she's like 'okay I worry about you and all but I know you can take care of yourself too, just let me be your cover fire.' You know, like a proper action mom should be. Oh yeah PS she becomes the head of a whole corporation by the end of Ep 3.
Forge Ferrus: N-Tek commander, Max's uncle. Generic white male leader of a special ops military group. Not bad, kinda amusing, haven't had a lot to go on from what the series has given so far. Wasn't given the hard nose commander personality, which is nice to see. Feelings mostly positive on this one.
Sydney Gardner: Token girl/girlfriend to hero, pretty smart. Far as clichés go, I rather like her. Doesn't afraid of anything and even stands up to the villain in Ep 5 and doesn't become a damsel in distress. In fact, hasn't been used for a target/bait at all yet. Color me surprised.
Kirby Kowalski: Token friend character, naive, laid back and goofy. But had some hero moments in ep 5. I ain't hating the side friend characters so far.
Roberto "Berto" Martinez: Wow this guy is adorable. Head robotics person at N-Tek, clearly loves his cybernetics, strikes me as the likely the least jaded in a facility full of effectively military personnel, so he comes off much more playful and light-hearted than the rest of the N-Tek cast. He's mostly a mechanic/robotics designer, does not engage in direct combat.
Katherine "Kat" Ryan and Jefferson Smith: Two N-Tek agents you see but are hardly developed, only a few speaking lines between the two of the, I didn't even know their names without looking it up, that's how little they're used in the first 5 eps.

I love the designs for this series, wow do I love the designs. I'll be honest, the first thing that compelled me to watch this, was the designs itself. The robotics all just look cool and incredibly appealing on a personal aesthetic level. Also a nod to the animations team, I'm loving the facial expression work and the over all look of the CGI in general. It's appealing to watch and that's rather important.

Voice acting is nice, nothing feeling out of place or over-acted, all very pleasant and good quality. I've also slacked and not researched the VA's on this one, maybe later. (doesn't help that IMDB doesn't even list any yet.)

As for the story itself, as I mentioned it's very action focused, so if you're looking for something with more meat to it, it won't be this series. But if you want a fun ride that entertaining and pretty to watch, this just may be it. We'll see in the continuing season if it continues it's Monster a Day pattern or if there are any over-arching story plots. It does however, have the potential to tank very badly, and I have no way of knowing if they're going to continue working with the clichés and tropes or if they'll just fall into the same patterns I see in many other generic super hero series.

All in all, first impressions positive, worth a look into if any of what I said seems appealing.

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