Tuesday 4 October 2011

Today's Review: Real Steel

You know what's cool? Getting tickets to a free screening. The movie may be terrible, but you get to go to the cinema for free. So when I got some tickets to see Real Steel, I thought "Hmm, a movie about some boxing robots. That's gonna be lame", but off I went anyway. But you know what? It wasn't bad.

Real Steel is indeed about boxing robots, but it's not only about boxing robots Hugh Jackman plays Charlie Kenton, a guy who is down on his luck and trying to scrape together all the money he can by doing tiny gigs with his worn out fighting robot. When it gets completely destroyed he quickly has to find a way to pay off his mounting debts. Thankfully, an opportunity comes up in the form of his estranged son, Max (Dakota Goyo). Max's mother has died, and Charlie agrees to sign off custody to Max's rich aunt for a nice sum of money. The only catch is he has to look after him for the summer. In case you haven't realised, Charlie is a bit of a pretentious dick. Anyway, on a routine thieving trip to a local robot junk yard, Max stumbles upon an old sparring robot, and is convinced he can win some matches with it. Charlie is obviously not so convinced, but once they get results the father and son embark on a journey through the leagues of robot boxing.

I'll start by saying that the robots look pretty awesome. It's particularly nice that despite being set in the 2020s the robots and computers seem to be the only real advancements in science. It paints a more realistic depiction of the near future, and doesn't go overboard with hi-tech gadgetry. The robots themselves have a wide range too. Atom, the robot that Max finds, is an early model, and it shows. But there are many other designs, some pieced together from junk and some working their way up to polished world class behemoths. The designs really emphasise the difference between the big league robots and the underdogs, which is a very important aspect of the movie, as it's quite like Rocky with robots.

The fight scenes are well organised, and don't take up too much of the movie. What is shown is real fun to watch, and some of the final fight scenes of the movie got the adrenaline suitably pumping. Where the majority of this movie shines, however, is in the relationship between Charlie and Max. They start out indifferent to each other, but soon they bond over their passion for robot boxing, and the training of Atom becomes a great development point for their relationship, as well as the long hours spent on the road between fights. The way this development really succeeds is in the quality of the actors. Jackman does a great job of leading Charlie from a douchebag to something a whole lot more, and Goyo is absolutely fantastic as Max. You can really root for him as he screams and dances his way through the victories of his robot companion, and the chemistry between Goyo and Jackman adds a lot of heart to a movie that I though would be a hunk of cold steel.

Real Steel is not without its flaws though. There is a love interest for Charlie, played by Evangeline Lily, but her character doesn't seem entirely necessary, and isn't fleshed out too well. The movie can get a little slow paced at times, especially when switching from packed stadium to dusty American roads, and there are certainly some predictable elements thrown in. But don't let the premise fool you. Real Steel may well have a lot of robot fighting action, but it has a whole lot more than that. What was put forward as an unimportant part of the plot actually adds a lot of substance to what could easily be written off as a trashy Hollywood movie.

My rating: 4/5

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