‘Real Steel’ really mediocre
Todd Miller | Collegio writer
I didn’t have high hopes for “Real Steel,” and it certainly delivered. The movie is set in the not-too-distant future (next Sunday A.D.) where the only real difference between now and then are, some electronics (mostly phones and radios) appear to be made of glass or Plexiglas and regular boxing has been replaced with robot boxing. Other than that, it doesn’t appear very “futuristic” at all.
Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) is a has-been boxer who now participates in robot boxing fights. However he seems to build up more debt than winning fights. When an old
girlfriend of his dies, he agrees to look after the son he didn’t know he had while the kid’s new legal guardians, his aunt and uncle, are out of the country. Charlie had agreed to turn over custody to them for $100,000. Max Kenton (Dakota Goyo) is just as apprehensive about being with the father he never knew, but the two begin to get along in their shared interest in robot boxing.
While stealing spare parts in a garbage dump, Max finds an old sparring robot. After cleaning it up, he wants to enter the old robot (called Atom), into boxing matches. At first Charlie only does it to humor the boy, but Atom turns into a formidable opponent in the ring. Soon, Atom is winning fights left and right, and the activity brings Charlie and Max closer together.
One thing I appreciate the film for is exactly how they handled the robots. Outside of fighting scenes, the film makers used stop animation and animatronics for the bots instead of completely computer-generated images. This helped make the robots seem real, in those scenes when the audience is getting a good look at them, rather than the fast-moving fighting scenes. The fighting scenes were computer – generated, though the film makers used motion-capture software similar to what was used in the movie “Avatar.”
However, a good-looking film doesn’t do a lot for its plot. Outside the fighting robots, the movie is basically a father-son bonding story sewn together with a sports movie. And the seams show. By the time I got through half of the movie, I was just ready to leave. When you combine two easy-to- predict plot lines, you just end up with a dull movie with a predictable plot. Charlie also had a love-interest, Bailly Tallet (Evangeline Lily), in the movie; but this plot event is hardly explored. They have barely one “tender” scene, and their relationship is hardly explored beyond that and Bailly’s exasperation with Charlie’s slumming through life.
And let’s be frank: this really is just Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots: The Movie. It’s all I could think about when seeing previews, and seeing the movie itself. One thing I did appreciate was what eventually becomes one of the film’s antagonists, Ricky (Kevin Durand), which I’ll not explain. It’s all the more satisfying to see it happen. Which, really, was the highlight of the film for me.
“Real Steel” is decent enough to look at. The boxing matches are entertaining to watch, if predictable, and the film makers did a great job making the robots seem realistic. So if you can put up with the somewhat shallow plot, this isn’t a bad movie to see.