Will: Robots can’t feel emotions. But they can certainly stir a few up. Those of you who have seen the trailer or the poster work for Real Steel probably have thought, “oh yeah, rock-em-sock-robots the movie” but there is so much more to this film than their marketing team would have you believe. What, to many, was presented as an action flick turned out to be a story of emotion and attachment. A story that can appeal to the young and the young at heart and leave both feeling satisfied.
The film centers on Charlie (Hugh Jackman) who makes a living (barely) by leading his remote-controlled robot boxer in action-packed fights. The film, set in the 2020s, depicts a society bored with human athletics and having turned to robot boxing as its premier form of entertainment. Charlie starts out deeply in debt and without much more than a beat-up truck to his name. Always scheming, Charlie learns he has a son whose mother just passed away in a car accident and whose aunt is married to a very wealthy industrialist. Naturally, the morally bankrupt Charlie sees a way to make a profit out of the situation and offers to turn off custody for a handsome sum of money but only on the condition that he take custody of Charlie over the summer.
This is where the story takes a turn for the predictable. The questionable father wants nothing to do with the long-lost son but together they wind up forging a relationship through unlikely circumstances. After a series of unsuccessful fights, the duo uncovers a broken-down old bot named “Atom” that young Max (Dakota Goyo) is quite fond of. The father and son combo combine their talents to propel Atom to robot fame and wind up winning something much dearer than a championship. This does give way to a few flaws in the film. The plot feels tired. It won’t leave you on the edge of your seat and it does hit a few low points were you’re wishing the theater had a fast-forward button. But there are a lot of really interesting scenes that advance the plot and the experience as a whole was enjoyable. The screenplay isn’t terrible but could have certainly been better; again there were a few low points where the dialogue just didn’t fit. I also believe there could have been more depth or additional layers to this story beyond what the writers had envisioned. There were scenes where the dialogue just wasn’t believable enough and the acting was a little over the top.
But Real Steel is surprisingly engaging and well-shot. The steel isn’t all that’s real; there are real characters and a real plot. So many elements work in this film’s favor that its biggest hindrance with audiences will probably be the way it is perceived by those who will never bother to see it.
The entertainment value is where Real Steel really shines. There were multiple points in the movie where you could see the children absolutely glowing from the images on the screen. The robot action keeps the grown-ups tuned in while the story of the young boy bonding with his new robo-friend delights the younger crowd. Hugh Jackman did a good job of capturing his character but Dakota Goyo really stole the show. His portrayal of the stubborn and determined yet lovable Max makes this movie worth the price of admission.
The special effects looked awesome, blending the CGI with animatronics really worked well and gave the robots an extra hint of realism. And the sets looked fantastic, think “futuristic slums” and you’ll get the idea. Emotions definitely ran high during the film. While it probably won’t bring tears to your eyes, it will tug at the heart just a little and for this movie it’s just enough. This is for sure a movie you can rewatch.
All-in-all, this movie hits a 72. It combines the action of Transformers with the emotional connection of the Iron Giant. It is sure to delight the kids and be exciting enough to hold Dad’s attention at least during the first few viewings.