I knew going into the film “Real Steel” that I was in for something not entirely special and yet I hoped for the best. I mean once you’ve seen the trailer, you already know where everything is headed, and let’s be honest here, the film does feel that it had been inspired by those little toy robots that you mash buttons to get them to do some boxing. I mean, it also comes complete with a boxing ring and the robots in “Real Steel” even have that inspired look. Well, the director behind the film is Shawn Levy who is also responsible for “Night at the Museum” franchise and “Date Night” so you should know what to expect. Also, the script based on the short story by Richard Metheson "Steel" but it feels more like something cooked up in the 80’s by Sylvester Stallone; blending an underdog drama, feel good themes and family film sensibilities.
Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman, Wolverine) is a former boxer and a guy out of his luck as he tries to scrape every little thing he can get from a robot fight. He tries to pit his robot against a bull and of course, the robot loses since animal rights activist would be enraged. It seems like he cannot have a decent kind of luck these days; he is buried in debt and now, he is called for a child custody hearing over a child named Max (Dakota Goyo) he had fathered years ago. Typical Charlie, he makes a deal to sign over custody to his former sister-in-law (Played by Hope Davis) but in turn he gets to spend some time with the kid for a few weeks. But once the father and son begin to be on the road, the two begin to form a bond with the aid of a ‘sparring’ robot called Atom. Now, it seems like deadbeat Charlie is about to have his luck change with the aid of his son and a beautiful childhood friend, Bailey (sexy Evangeline Lilly, The Hurt Locker), as they get a fight with the reigning robot fighting champ called “Zeus”, backed by a wealthy corporation and a Japanese designer.
“Real Steel” is a film that feels more like a ‘feel good’ family film that uses robots to make it look like sci-fi. There’s nothing wrong with following an established formula, but I am not so sure that the potentials of such a premise was credibly represented. There is no background given as the rise of the robot fights, and aside from the robots, the computers and phones, there is no indication that this movie takes place in the future. At its place, the film borrows elements from the “Rocky” film franchise (there is even a homage to Mr. T), most certainly “Over The Top”, and then meshes them with touches of sci-fi elements from “Robot Jox” and even the 70’s anime series “Daimos”.
Now don’t think that this is a sci-fi film because it most certainly is not. The film focuses on the relationship between Charlie, Max and Atom, as it uses devices that viewers of “Over The Top” would find very familiar. I mean I have to commend the direction for making Charlie a real deadbeat (I mean he is cocky and highly unlikable), and not the likable character Stallone had in that film, it gives some credibility as to why he lost touch, and the thing were he found his 'real' self and inner kindness would carry more impact. But then, I found the area how Max began to be attached to him a little ineffective. Sure, I mean, there is always a blood bond in there and Atom does help thing along, but I found the scenes where Levy uses some tear-jerking moments (extreme close ups of Max and Bailey) to be a little wasted. I mean the tone of the film is extremely cartoonish, this world is so underdeveloped and I find it hard to really care about the stakes. I was also left smiling when I saw a female character that looked like a tribute to Drago’s wife in “Rocky IV” and the whole "go to the body thing" is just taken from the iconic Rocky Balboa. Maybe it is just me, but the devices that made those other films successful were lost in this robot boxing thing. I didn’t feel like chanting “Atom” but I almost snickered into chanting “Rocky”. (I would've fell off my seat if I saw Bailey with a nerdy hat and dorky glasses-ala Adrian)
There was an opportunity to capitalize on the hinted at sentience of Atom, but it wasn’t even touched on by the script. But I wouldn’t say that “Real Steel” is a lost cause since it does have its charm and most of it come from Jackman’s charisma and the robot fights do entertain. I was also glad that the film went for the use of animatronics rather than full CGI, it made the robot scenes much more real. It gave the robots a feeling of ‘personality’ rather than a bunch of polygons put together. The film does the crunch of metal against metal quite well; you feel the blows and the way Atom does the boxing moves with Jackman were spot-on. As with any sports movie, there is a final confrontation that really felt like “Rocky IV” as Atom is faced with a much larger opponent. I snickered as I saw the boxing strategy ‘rope a dope’ used by a robot against a robot. But hey, better machines who are beating the tar out of each other than humans right?
I suppose I cannot really say that I disliked “Real Steel” but I am unsure if I liked it either. I am a sucker for anime mecha battles and robot boxing seems to be the next best thing, but the one thing I just couldn’t get is that I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be laughing at certain scenes and I did. The film is just excessively cartoonish and the direction seemed to struggle on some points and what was supposed to be emotional, didn’t feel real. I am not sure, I guess the caricaturist characterization had a lot to do with it, and the trailer really made the movie predictable. That said, “Real Steel” can be real entertaining for kids and the family; after all, who can resist a movie about a kid who dances with his robot and a reunion with his father? Take it for what it is, and you may have a good time.
By Joan Alperin Schwartz The year is 2020. Things look pretty much the same as they do now...Except in the world of boxing. Humans have evolved to the point where they no longer get excited by watching men and women pummel each other. Score one for us. What we have instead is 'Robot Boxing' which I have to say is...really, really cool...especially the way it's depicted in this new fantasy, action film, called 'Real Steel' directed … more
Boxing movies have been a staple of Hollywood for decades. Some of the earliest celluloid offerings documented pugilistic bouts in films such as Raging Bull, The Fighter, and the iconic Rocky series and helped boxing cement itself in both popular and cinematic culture. In the film “Real Steel”, Hugh Jackman plays Charlie Kenton, a down-on-his-luck promoter whose best days are definitely behind him. In the near-future setting of the film, robots have replaced humans in the boxing ring … more
Star Rating: In Shawn Levy’s Real Steel, hulking robots fight each other in back-alleys and sports arenas as frothing crowds cheer them on. This blending of science fiction and fantasy, coupled with the adrenaline rush from the sheer spectacle of brawling metal behemoths, automatically makes the robots more interesting than the human characters. I honestly don’t know if this flaw can be attributed to the underlying concept, which I think is in the … more
James and I watched Real Steel on Blu-ray last night and I am happy to say that surpassed my expectations! I am a Hugh Jackman fan (I mean, who isn't?) and I was intrigued by the idea of watching robots box. I was hooked after the first ten or fifteen minutes and gave the movie my undivided attention. The actors and directors did an amazing job with this film. My favorite part was when the kid was teaching the robot to dance. My husband looked at me and said "if we ever get a robot, that's the first … more
OK, I pirated it off the net. Just passed half way thru I started scanning forward through the flick. I have deleted it from my computer. I had completely forgotten it until looking down this list. Hopefully it won't be long until I forget it again. Not even as good as Cowboys and Aliens.