Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Real Steel
Released 10.7.2011

Directed by Shawn Levy
Written by John Gatins (Story by Dan Gilrioy and Jeremy Leven; based on short story by Richard Matheson)

While even more preposterous than it appears at times, "Real Steel" is actually better than it appears. Thanks to a capable cast and effects crew, it is a movie about robot boxing that I still somehow recommend despite its nonfunctional parts.

Hugh Jackman plays a charming deadbeat who has found work in controlling robots in the ring after his own boxing career left him washed up. We soon discover he's the estranged father to a Dakota Goyo's Max. The missing maternal role is naturally filled by the talented Evangeline Lily (BKA Kate from "LOST"), who it was great to see in a motion picture. Gotta say, she absolutely sizzles opposite Hugh Jackman. Luckily for the premise, all three seem to be experts in one area or the other regarding robot boxing.

The interactions that set this plot in motion are downright absurd. The "deal" between two characters in particular comes out of nowhere and felt unreal to a fault. This was bothering me, then I had to ask myself, "Am I really concerned with realism in film about boxing robots?" It might seem just as ridiculous as this movie to nitpick about such things, but even in the face of fantasy and science-fiction, it is realistic interactions (or the lack thereof) that make (or break) believable narratives despite the subject matter. Also, if you're not a fan of the know-it-all child roles that occasionally sprout up in movies (where do I sign up?), this one belongs in the hall of fame. Max is constantly stuffing humble pie in his dad's face as he proves time and time again that he is a child prodigy. Along with his dad, who still knows a few moves, they just might stand a chance. All the competition (and the stooge of an antagonist for Jackson's character) are instantly unlikable. They never stood a chance in this paralleled world.

Now, you may be wondering what I did appreciate about this film. Let me tell you. The three leads all do terrific work with the cards they're dealt. The robots themselves, while lacking any personality (but when I think back of my painful viewing of "Short Circuit" I see how that might be a good thing), are an impressive effect. Atom in particular, who gets the most screen time, captured my interest. Plus, there was something alive about him as the film not-too-subtly suggests. The use of CGI and animotronics actually  makes for some real steel. What surprised me most is how this is one of the year's best shot films (in a really beautiful year I might add). Mauro Fiore, who won an Oscar for his achievement in "Avatar," does nothing too experimental, but keeps the camerawork traditional and terrific. Ultimately, this is a father-son film about working together, saying you're sorry, and proving it through your dedication. It even gets a little emotional during that inevitable championship fight. It is certainly better than the other film released this year featuring fighting robots. Of course, I'm talking about "The Help." No, wait...


CONTENT: plentiful action and violence (mostly involving robots) and some language

Updated 4.11.12


Galyn said...

Just watched the trailer although I think I saw it before. Interesting plot line. Sounds predictable...was it?

J.S. Lewis said...

Predictable? Overall absolutely. Some wrinkles I didn't expect though.