A Notorious DC Movie Bomb Is Returning To HBO Max While Man Of Steel Is Still Missing

The most notorious DC movie failure of all time is set to land back on HBO Max on July 1, even though Superman fans can’t watch Zack Snyder’s Man Of Steel on the premium service. Ironically, the link between Shaquille O’Neal’s cult DC movie Steel and Superman himself makes the release quirk feel even stranger. But at least it’ll be a strong reminder of the weight of DC movie history that the new DCU reboot has to avoid when it relaunched with Superman: Legacy.


26 years after its 1997 release, Steel still holds the record for the highest second week box office drop for any comic book movie, after only taking $870,068 from 1,260 theaters initially. The supposed Superman spin-off – at least in terms of the character’s DC comics origin – was a notorious critical bomb too, landing a 12% Rotten Tomatoes score. Criticism of Steel focused on poor casting, bad acting, terrible story choices (including removing any tangible link to Superman) and a difficult shooting schedule for the bomb.

Related: Every DCEU Movie Ranked From Worst To Best (Including The Flash)

Is Steel Worth Watching On HBO Max?

Steel Movie with Shaquille O'Neal

As a 1990s cartoon-like superhero movie, Steel is fun enough if you drop your expectation levels. Released the same year as Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin, it’s actually more of a bizarro Batman adaptation than a Superman spin-off, with screenwriter and director Kenneth Johnson calling the tech-heavy hero as a “blue collar Batman“. Whether it works in those terms is seriously debatable, but watching then NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal throw his considerable bulk around in the name of justice is a curio that the modern era of DC movies simple would never do. As a bonus, Shaq combined with heavyweight rappers including Ice Cube and B-Real for rap song “Men Of Steel”:

Why Man Of Steel Isn’t On HBO Max

Man of Steel's Oil rig scene

DCEU founding movie Man Of Steel remains one of the high-points of the tortured franchise, despite divided reactions at times. The near-perfect casting of Henry Cavill – which the DCEU never fully built on – a strong story, and an insightful modern take on Superman as a symbol make Man Of Steel a popular franchise addition even 10 years on. And even though Man Of Steel has been on HBO Max previously (it was added in October 2020), it was removed again in 2022, presumably thanks to an existing licensing deal or Warner Bros’ financial decisions. Streaming distribution is a more complex set-up than it might seem, even with DC and HBO Max sharing the same parent company.

Man Of Steel doesn’t fit the logic of the HBO Max Originals removed from the service as a tax cost-cutting measure, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t save money by leaving. There’s also value in streamers periodically dropping and re-adding legacy titles from a consumer point of view: like Disney’s controversial Vault plan, removing supply can increase demand, and create spikes when the titles become available again. Man Of Steel is still available on Amazon Prime to stream for free, but it still feels strange to see a failure like Steel added to HBO Max while the movie that launched the DCEU and a legitimately great Superman movie left out for now.

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