|Which is probably what the director said after seeing Shaq's acting.|
The music is… interesting, now that I mention it. It’s much like the theme for the Wild Wild West film. It mixes an orchestral, heroic theme with what can only be described as a groovy Blaxploitation funk.
This is as good a time as ever to bring up what Blaxploitation is, for those of you who might not familiar with the term. In a word, Shaft. In many words, entertainment produced featuring and for African-American audiences, often featuring martial arts, action, and crime busting, and sticking it to the man (often white) though it did branch out into other genres. Wikipedia, as always, has more information if you’re curious, but basically, this is a Blaxploitation superhero movie. Quite the tame one compared to classics of the genre like Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song and Foxy Brown, but that’s because this thing was made for all audiences by a very 1990’s Warner Brothers.
|This Warner Brothers.|
The man in the tank surrenders because his biscuit’s a-burning, and we see that this was Cliché Opening #32: The Training Sequence. The head scientist (I think; she’s the only one saying things about science and data and stuff) is Susan “Sparky” Sparks, and throws some compliments over to the weapon’s tester/designer, Shaquille O’Neal. Oh, sure, the movie claims that he’s called “John Henry Irons,” but that’s malarkey. Let’s face it, everyone who’s ever watched this movie just refers to him as “Shaq” in their heads, much like how William Shatner wasn’t playing T.J. Hooker, it was just Captain Kirk deciding he wanted to be a cop for a while, as Eddie Izzard taught us. Also, have some more Eddie Izzard.
John: “Moving the capaci-tor at the start really helped fix the balance.”
Well, looks like somebody has no idea what a capacitor is. Also, he may have actually said something along the lines of “to the start,” but I’m not sure. Shaq is a bit of a mumbler. Anyway, they show off the damage done to the visiting Senator while
Anyway, Sparky’s impressed because John’s new alloy kept the barrel of the gun impressively cool.
John: “Cool just like…”
Aw, Shaq’s trying to flirt. They go in for a…. well, it’s like a fistbump, but they just end up touching pointer fingers. Let’s call it an “E.T.”
The Senator’s quite impressed by these weapons, so one of the soldiers, Lt. Nathaniel Burke (Judd Nelson), creepily informs her that he made some adjustments that could make it even more powerful. Because messing with other scientist’s stuff never turns out badly. Like when Victor Van Damme messed with Reed Richards’ teleportation coordinates, turning them into the Ultimate Fantastic Four.
Anyway, the next part of the test is for a sonic cannon, which will take place in an artificial town. John brags that this weapon is non-lethal, because he doesn’t like killing. Lt. Burke wants to crank the thing up to show the Senator what it’s capable of, but Sparky says that they haven’t tested that far yet.
|After all, they spent most of their testing period trying to teach Shaq to say "capacitor."|
John: “What you did was foul.”
Spoken like a true basketball player.
Burke is all upset over missing his big break to be the next Tony Stark, and merely gets dismissed from the army. The colonel let’s John know that he’s very anxious to keep moving forward with these weapons, but John’s had enough and leaves the project.
|"I can't wait to get out of here and do some walking. Yep, lots of walking. Running, too."|
After John gets welcomed back by a small boy while walking down the street, a basketball rolls into his path. With a little encouragement from the kids, he decides to try and make a free throw. But of course, being Shaquille O’Neal, he fails to make it. There you go sports fans, that’s the “Shaq can’t make free throws” joke. Was it all you had hoped for?
Meanwhile, Burke visits with an arcade manager. Okay, you dang post-90’s kids, let me explain. Back in the day, video games were these big old boxes that were kept in buildings called “arcades” that could only play one game and cost quarters to play. Like Chuck E Cheese, but Pac-Man instead of skee ball. Anyway, Burke basically waltzes right in and says, “Hey, wanna deal some weapons like old times?”
|"C'mon, pal, we're villains in a 90's movie. It's either this or we have to start dealing drugs."|
Not after they invent the Playstation 2, buddy. Get out now.
But Burke piques Daniels’s interest by promising that they can sell the weapons of the future to the third-world countries of today. Meanwhile,
Martin: “Man, I got all kinda crazy honeys to whet me.”
Case in point. (Also, I might have heard that wrong; that might have been “waiting for me.” Sorry, I don’t speak white-guy-written ebonics.)
John: “No more weapons for me. Lot better for my soul.”
|"Who's a good puppy?"|
Later that night, after a hard day of building illegal weapons, they all enter the elevator except for Daniels, Burke, and one of the henchmen. Using some kind of unexplained doohickey, Burke breaks the elevator and causes it to crash. And like the Mirror Universe, the survivors apparently all move up in rank. So, yeah, that was a random bit of villainy. Here’s some more. They begin assembling a gang to take the weapons out and test them on the streets.
Martin: “Let’s get ready to rumble!”
I mean, she brings the civilians along to the armed robbery. Of course.
There’s a conflict between the cops and the robbers, and the robbers win hands down, despite
John: “It’s on, now.”
Said with all the conviction of a man flipping a light switch.
In what I have to admit is a fairly nice homage to the original comics, which had a similar scene, John runs off after a straggler. But what makes this scene stupid is that they’re quite obviously lightly jogging through L.A. A breakneck chase this is not. John stops chasing the kid to rescue a guy about to be hit by a train, and keeps going through the trainyard. After failing to stop the kid, getting shot at by one of his own weapons, and narrowly dodging a falling train, he finally sneaks up on the kid with help from the film's editor and interrogates him.
John: “Where’d you get this?”
He learned it by watching you!
But John gets shot by another gang member, and the two escape while Shaq tries to make pain noises like his acting coach taught him.
To be continued! Will John Henry Irons survive? Will Shaq take some acting lessons? Will Steel actually appear in this movie called "Steel"? Find out in Part 2!