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Real Steel (2011)

Posted on the 30 December 2011 by Mattstewart @Mattandcinema

 

Real Steel (2011)

I first saw the trailer for Real Steel quite some time ago and immediately had mixed thoughts about it. The inspirational music (it always gets to me, sorry) plus a decent cast made it seem OK, but then the whole underdog robot fighting story (say what?) made it seem like a fail, another Transformers if you will. I can tell you right off Real Steel is better than all of the Transformers films, but I cannot say it’s much better. To be honest, the only thing that pushes it past other average action films is the writers actually try to build characters, and in doing so save the film from a major tumble into the garbage disposal.

The setting is 2020 where boxing is a sport that has drifted away to make room for the ultimate entertainment, two robots beating the crap out of each other all while no one gets hurt. Fun, huh? Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) was once a famous boxer but after the transformation he has turned into nothing more than a poor man looking for money in the form of robot boxing, and while doing a show his bot “Ambush” is destroyed by a bull, leaving him stuck with nothing to work with.

On top of that, a rather sticky situation comes up very quickly. Charlie is informed that his ex-girlfriend has passed away and that he must show up to court to determine what family member is supposed to be the guardian of his 11-year-old son, Max (Dakota Goyo), whose life Charlie has never been a part of; in fact, they haven’t even met. When he notices the unusually large wedding ring on Max’s Aunt’s hand, Charlie sees a way out of his money problems.

Rightfully Max belongs to Charlie, and he decides to bargain his son for 100,000 dollars, and the exception of Max staying with Charlie for the summer while his Aunt and Uncle are on a trip. At first this seems like nothing more than a burden, but during a search for bot piece Max stumbles on a sparring bot that turns out to be quite the Cinderella Man (Umm… or robot?). Not only do Max and his father rise in the ranks at a rapid speed, but as Charlie regains his heart he finds a relationship with his son that Max has been longing for his entire life.

Acclaimed and beloved movie critic Roger Ebert had quite a bit to say about Real Steel, “‘Real Steel’ is a real movie. It has characters, it matters who they are, it makes sense of its action, it has a compelling plot. This is the sort of movie, I suspect, young viewers went to the ‘Transformers’ movies looking for. Readers have told me they loved and identified with their Transformers toys as children. Atom must come close to representing their fantasies. Sometimes you go into a movie with low expectations and are pleasantly surprised.”

See, I partially agree with this statement. I enjoyed Real Steel, I really did, but my problem was the premise, there are rare ones like this that are just so bad it is nearly impossible to get over. No matter how good the direction is, no matter how good the acting is, no matter how good the script is. Yes, Shawn Levy’s direction is quite good, never missing a single step. Unfortunately, the script and acting cannot back him up, Hugh Jackman couldn’t even pull it together and personally I find him consistent for the most part. Even so, in his solidly average performance he is much better then the rest of Real Steel’s actors.

With that being said, the characterization is in my opinion the most important part of a screenplay, and the writers hit a home run in that department. I was telling a good friend of mine about the movie, he had not seen it and asked if it was good. I told him when it came to the final battle I frankly just did not care, but what I truly was interested in was the father to son relationship. The film as a whole may fail in more areas than it doesn’t, but right here it succeeds BIG time, keeping it from the dreaded C- or worse rating.

Final Word – I cannot tell you how much I want to recommend Real Steel, but really, just go rent Rocky instead. Less money, better movie.

C+


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