When I read the premise of “Real Steel”, I wasn’t really that impressed. A film about boxing robots sounds like a second-rate Transformers movie to me. And I wasn’t really a fan of the Transformers movies.
After seeing the movie, I’m not actually wrong. In some ways, “Real Steel” is a little like the Transformers movies where robots go out and destroy each other. However, in many other ways, it is not.
This is because “Real Steel” actually has a story in it.
Directed by Shawn Levy, “Real Steel” is the story of Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) a former boxer who now fights with boxing robots because boxing is the only thing he knows how to do. However Charlie isn’t a very successful robot boxer and owns various people a lot of money due to his own failures.
However things begin to look up when Charlie is informed that his ex-girlfriend has died, leaving behind his son Max (Dakota Goyo). Max's aunt Debra (Hope Davis) and uncle Marvin (James Rebhorn) want full custody, and Charlie offered a deal to Marvin to give them full custody in exchange for $100,000. Marvin added a condition that Charlie would need to take care of Max for three months while he and Debra went on a vacation. Both men shook hands on the deal.
You can probably guess the story from there. Father and son hates each other at first before bonding as they rebuild a robot called Atom that brings them to the big leagues. Well, actually Max built the robot while Charlie fights it but you get the idea.
In many ways, “Real Steel” is Rocky meets Transformers. To the credit of director Shawn Levy, this is a movie that works despite the clichés. Silly premises aside, this movie has a heart as the story is focused on the father-son dynamic of Max and Charlie. The movie is also anchored by solid performances from its actors. Hugh Jackman and Dakota Goyo were good but I think special mention need to be given to Hope Davies and Evangeline Lilly who both made the most out of their limited appearances.
I especially enjoyed the robots in the movie. Each was distinct and you can see that the designers put some effort in making different from one another. Unlike the Transformers movies, when the robots in “Real Steel” fight, you can easily tell them apart. That makes the fight scenes much more exciting.
Of course there were some sore points for me. It was hinted several times in the movie that Atom was more than just a normal boxing robot, that there might be some intelligence and soul behind him. However this was never expanded on and it was a plotline that was left dangling at the end of the movie.
Also the 2 main villains of the movie were well…kind of weak. I know Tak Mashido (Karl Yune) is supposed to be a genius and Farra Lemcova (Olga Fonda) is supposed to be rich, but they both did nothing in the movie. Almost every single time you see them in the movie, they were being interviewed. It’s hard to be fearful of villains when that’s the only thing you see them doing! We never got to see how much of a genius Mashido is or how rich and powerful Lemcova truly is. They were more like arrogant sport-stars than villains and even then we never got to see just how good they are at the sport of robot boxing.
“Real Steel” is one of those movies that did nothing great, but everything well. There is robot fighting, a love story, a father-son relationship, and redemption; all in the movie. Overall, I have to say “Real Steel” is a surprising good and enjoyable movie.