It’s Time For DC To Redeem Its Lowest-Grossing Movie Of All Time

  • Steel is the lowest-earning DC movie ever, making only $1.8 million worldwide on a $16 million budget.
  • As Superman's most virtuous successor, DC Comics' John Henry Irons has plenty of potential for a modern reboot.
  • Nowadays, lesser-known comic book characters have more opportunities to shine than ever before, and Steel could be a star in James Gunn's DCU.
Enough time has passed since Steel's abysmal release to warrant another DC movie attempt. From 1951's Superman and the Mole Men to Tim Burton's Batman, Richard Donner's Superman, and Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, DC movies released before the DCEU and the DCU mostly focused on the company's two most famous superheroes, Batman and Superman. Some exceptions to this rule were 1982's Swamp Thing and its 1989 sequel The Return of Swamp Thing, as well as 2005's Constantine, 2010's Jonah Hex, and 2011's Green Lantern.
In other cases, non-franchise standalone DC movies centered around characters who are closely related to Batman and Superman; for instance, 1984's Supergirl, 2004's Catwoman, and the biggest box office bomb in DC movie history: 1997's Steel, starring NBA Hall of Fame star Shaquille O'Neal. Steel follows the hero John Henry Irons, who creates a suit of armor to stop a weapons manufacturer, not unlike the plot of Marvel's Iron Man. Despite its atrocious box office and critical reception, Steel may still have potential for another live-action adaptation on the big or the small screen.
Steel (1997) Is The Lowest-Earning Theatrical DC Movie Of All Time Steel Holds Low Box Office Records 27 Years Later Steel earned most of its box office during its opening weekend, which is a bad omen for any theatrical release, especially considering the amount: $870,000. Steel's earnings dropped an astounding 78% on its second weekend in theaters — a record it shares with 2023's The Marvels. And by the end of its theatrical run, Steel only gathered $1.7 - $1.8 million worldwide on a $16 million budget, around six times less than DC's second-biggest box office bomb, 2010's Jonah Hex. Check out the top five worst-performing live-action DC movies of all time:
DC Movie
Worldwide Box Office (Approx.)
Superman III
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
Jonah Hex
Steel didn't perform any better critically, and it hasn't earned any cult cred in recent years, as other flops like Batman Forever and Batman & Robin actually have. In fact, Steel seems to be aging poorly, as new negative reviews made in recent years have shown. As of 2024, Steel holds an 8% Tomatometer score and a 19% Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes. Shaquille O'Neal's performance, a superficial script, unambitious direction, and a lack of comic accuracy in Steel's origin story are some of the criticisms that explain Steel's failure with critics and general audiences.
The only other time Steel has been adapted in live-action has been in Superman & Lois, where an initially villainous, alternate-universe John Henry Irons is played by Wolé Parks.
Why Steel Deserves Another Movie Steel Is Among Superman's Most Heroic Allies And Successors Steel's 1997 movie adaptation may not have made a good case for his live-action potential, but John Henry Irons' comic book history proves he can still star in a well-made movie or show. Steel first appeared in 1993's The Adventures of Superman #500 and began his superhero journey during the famous storyline The Death of Superman, where Superman saved John Henry Irons' life and encouraged him to be a hero. After Doomsday killed Superman, John Henry picked up a sledgehammer and designed a suit of armor inspired by the Man of Steel, becoming the superhero Steel and setting out to uphold Superman's legacy.
Steel and Superman have become close friends and joined forces multiple times.
Steel became such a virtuous and talented hero that he quickly emerged as Superman's best successor, beating Superboy, Cyborg Superman, and Eradicator — all of whom were more powerful than Steel but lacked the selfless qualities that made Superman the world's best hero. Once Superman came back to life, Steel received his blessing to continue working as a superhero. Since then, Steel and Superman have become close friends and joined forces multiple times, and Steel has even earned a spot in certain iterations of the Justice League due to his brilliant intellect, his sheer power, and his selflessness.
Why The Time Is Right For Another Steel Movie It's Now Easier For Lesser-Known Superheroes To Become A-List Characters Than Ever Before Close Characters like Steel had very few opportunities to succeed back in 1997. One failed attempt at a live-action adaptation and their chances were gone. Fortunately, things have changed in recent years with the advent of the MCU, the DCEU, and the DCU. The massive success of properties like Iron Man, The Avengers, and Aquaman has led to the rise in popularity of the previously unfamiliar Guardians of the Galaxy and Suicide Squad. Nowadays, Marvel characters like Groot and DC characters like Peacemaker can reach the same levels of popularity as A-list heroes like Captain America and Superman.


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