Real Steel (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

Real Steel (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
3/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Visual Effects (Erik Nash, John Rosengrant, Danny Gordon Taylor, Swen Gillberg).
Watched April 3, 2013.


“Behind it all is a collective fantasy of invulnerability, omnipotence and eternal life.  “Real Steel” at least acknowledges that machines require maintenance to be superhuman” (NY Times). 


Real Steel is your basic entertaining blockbuster with an out of this world budget supported by a fairly incredible cast and with very little depth behind its predictable, albeit likable character arcs.  It doesn’t try to be more than it is, and although it is a bit long of a film, it brings us a different kind of sport movie, complete with a feel-good montage sequence, thats heroes are robots–not humans.


Don’t get me wrong, the focus is definitely more about the character growth of the humans than the robots.  This isn’t your typical sci-fi thriller where the robots are terrifyingly intelligent, they outthink us, and try to take over the world.  In fact, it almost seems as if director Shawn Levy was careful not to dwell too long on any robot’s face, lest we get the feeling that there is something going on in its brain.  The robots in Real Steel are innocent, despite what their human owners are using them for.


It is sometime in the future and human boxing has become obsolete, something that Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) is trying to forget.  Robots have taken over in the ring, and despite the fact that Charlie is clearly bitter about not being in there himself, he is a robot fighter, bringing his dilapidated monsters around to underground fights where big league rules don’t apply.  Things aren’t going well for Charlie–he keeps losing and is behind on his rent.  He lives in the old gym where he used to train, and the daughter of his now deceased coach, Bailey Tallet (Evangeline Lilly) owns it, as well as fixes up his bots.  After a lot of bad luck, things seem to turn around when Charlie’s old fling turned baby mama dies (we don’t know how) and Charlie could stand to earn a lot of money if he plays his cards right.  The kid, Max (Dakota Goyo) shows little emotion toward his mom’s passing, but is remarkably like Charlie, and figures out pretty quickly that Charlie sold him to his aunt.


Through some turn of events, Max has to stay with Charlie for the summer, and inevitably, because he is the carbon copy of his dad, he falls in love with robot boxing.  He finds a robot in a junk yard–an old second generation sparring bot named Atom, and essentially falls in love, like a kid would fall in love with a dog.  Using his giant eyes of persuasion, he gets Charlie to help him out, and Atom’s incredible ability to take a hit instantly skyrockets them to fame and eventually onto the big stage where they take on the biggest professional fighters of the day.


The special effects are out of this world.  I usually completely forget that the robots are computer generated, and although we all know that Atom has zero brain functions, it’s hard to not root for him.  It’s a lot easier to root for Max–he has a fiery personality that travels right alongside his innocence.  Charlie is a tough cookie and has a lot of issues he has to get through, but by the end he is a lot more endearing.


One of the last scenes is my absolute favourite, although I wouldn’t say watching the entire movie is worth it just to get to that place.  If you’re looking for an entertaining, well made blockbuster, this is definitely a good option.  It’s not particularly something I would want to watch over and over again, but it has a feel-good quality that I quite enjoy, and the ending is uplifting and joyful, which is a good feeling to walk away with after watching it.  If you haven’t seen this one and you’re into sport-type movies, I would recommend it.  However, if you’re looking for something with a certain level of depth, this would be one to stay away from.


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