Real Steel Movie Review


I have to start this review off by saying that I’m a kid at heart; I look for wonder in the world wherever I can find it, and I can give Hollywood 100% suspension of disbelief. What does this mean? It means I’m not looking for the logic in every scene, I can anthropomorphize a piece of metal, and I can wholeheartedly enjoy a rousing bout of robot boxing. This doesn’t make me special, but I do feel that in today’s cynical society people find it much easier to point out the flaws in something and to nit-pick things that other people have the balls to make, rather than just shut up, let their guard down, and enjoy basically Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots on the big screen. What is it about people today that makes them see a trailer for a sci-fi movie and balk at the believability? Imagine if people had sat down in Star Wars and thought, “Egad, that ship could never make it into space. I’m not watching this trash.”

Most people I know thought the trailers looked cheesy and ridiculous, and that the plot sounded the same. People also compared it to Rocky, but how is that a bad thing? Besides, every boxing movie has scenes of training, matches are lost, matches are won. It’s boxing! It comes with the territory. That doesn’t make every boxing movie a derivative. In fact, Real Steel had me at fighting robots. I don’t care how corny that sounds, it’s robots! And not Michael Bay’s version of robots! Plus it looked like it was going to be a robot-with-a-heart movie, which I’m totally down for (see: Iron Giant). Lucky for me, Real Steel not only lived up to my expectations, it far exceeded them. I’m not saying this film is for everyone; if you can’t admit you have a heart and don’t think you could get excited by robots beating the scrap out of each other, then don’t waste your time. But for those who do give this movie a chance, they just might see the good in it (just like the plot of the movie – wink, wink).


In the film, Hugh Jackman plays somewhat of a loser, named Charlie, who owes a lot of people money, and he makes what little money he can fighting a junky robot in podunk circuits. The first real fight scene in the movie is between a robot and a bull (a ROBOT and a BULL!), which reminded me of when Conan punched out a camel, so this sucked me right in. Charlie’s robot loses the fight and, knowing that he’s going to be in trouble, he aims to skip town. Right before he gets away he learns that the mother of his son Max has just passed away, and according to the law, Charlie now has custody. When he goes to the courthouse to sign the rights away to the mother’s sister and her rich husband, he sees this as a chance to make some money, so ends up tricking the husband into paying him to keep Max for the summer.

Yes, this becomes the tried-and-true story of dad doesn’t want kid, dad gets stuck with kid, kid makes dad a better person, dad loves kid. However, Real Steel does an incredible job of not making it too cheesy. I’m pretty sure I never heard the words “I love you” in this film, and any time it started to get corny something funny would happen and the audience could pretend the tears were from laughing too hard. Hugh Jackman’s Charlie is a complete dick through the entire movie, and even though he learns that being a dad means something, he still walks away kid-free. I liked that his character didn’t change enough to be unbelievable (yeah, I know, robot boxing and all that, please refer to my line about suspension of disbelief).

Most of the other characters were also very well-rounded. They were right on the edge of being caricatures, but I think they rode that line perfectly. The only character I didn’t believe was that of Bailey, Charlie’s love interest/partner, played by Evangeline Lilly. I loved her in Lost, but either she got weird direction or just tried too hard, as her acting seemed so fake and strained. She also was responsible for the most annoying scene in the film for me by saying “Charlie” a thousand times in about a ten sentence conversation. Enough about the people though, what about the robots?

I am a fan of animatronics, puppetry, and makeup. I’m a stickler about CGI because it always looks fake and nobody can get the line of sight right. Yet somehow this movie had one of the most amazing uses of CGI I have ever seen. At times I found myself wondering which scenes had the CG robots, and which ones used the real machines (the film used both). And it wasn’t just the look of them that was great; their movements and actions were lovely to watch. The matches between the robots were so well done, that the entire audience was cheering as if they were at a real boxing match. I think in large part this was due to the amazing fight choreography provided by Sugar Ray Leonard. In an interview, Leonard spoke about giving each robot a personality of real-life boxers, and with those personalities he matched up the fighting styles of the boxers. Aficionados of boxing could probably even guess which robot is which boxer.

Shawn Levy directed this film, and as strange as it seems to say it, I believe he’s an auteur of a sort. He’s had a few duds, but with such fare as Big Fat Liar, Cheaper by the Dozen, and the Night at the Museum movies, he’s been able to weave heart, humor, character, and real life into an enjoyable ride. Adults often make bad decisions, and kids have a way of showing them not only the right decisions, but how to enjoy whatever comes of them. Real Steel is an excellent example of this, plus it has badass fighting robots! There’s also a kind of magic in this film when the son, Max, gets to interact with the robots, and when he finds what becomes his robot, Atom. Levy does an amazing job of letting the adults in the audience join in the same kind of wonder that the kids surely feel; the kind of wonder that is not too often found in this day and age.

I’ll say it again, this movie is not for everyone. If you thought the trailers looked cheesy and stupid, if you don’t like robots, and if you generally can’t stand PG-13 movies, then you probably won’t like this movie. But if you can just drop your guard, open your heart, and give this movie a chance, it just may end up winning you over and could possibly even knock your socks off. I give this movie 4.5 out of 5 Nerdskulls.

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Anarchy Jones


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