Directed by Shawn Levy
Starring Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly, Dakota Goya
Release Date: October 7, 2011
Let’s clear the air right now, readers. Real Steel is on the surface an homage to the popular kids’ game Rock’em Sock’em Robots. It is hard to dispute that fact and I don’t think that the creators can even deny that there are similarities. What you don’t notice is that under the metal exterior lies a rather human story.
Real Steel‘s focuses on Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman), an ex-boxer down on his luck. Once, he went toe to toe with the champ, but as the world changed, so did boxing. Now, only robots compete in the squared circle, but even Charlie’s robot can’t cut a break. Things go from bad to worse when his ex-girlfriend passes away leaving him to care for his estranged son Max (Dakota Goyo). Charlie wants nothing to do with the kid and only takes him in exchange for some cash, but eventually he warms to the kid and fights to keep him.
While the concept of humans controlling robots to fight it out in a boxing ring seems silly, the movie does have a lot going for it. For one thing, it is a really good-looking movie. The direction by Shawn Levy is superb. He really does know how to shoot a fight sequence, but also has an eye for catching great-looking backdrop shots of the countryside. The movie budget is somewhere in the neighborhood of $110 million and looks every bit like it. The movie also has the good fortune of having Hugh Jackman as a leading man.
Jackman is definitely one of the few actors who can appeal to all demographics. The guys think he’s badass and the girls think he’s a good-looking fellow. Jackman is perfect in this role and shows it every chance he is on screen. Whether it is performing action scenes with a robot or making amends with his estranged son, Jackman makes it look easy. He also has great chemistry with all his co-stars, something even some of our biggest leading men have trouble accomplishing.
Jackman is pretty great as a leading man, but to make any film work, the supporting actors need to also be on their game. Dakota Goyo does a pretty good job as Jackman’s son and holds his own in all his scenes. He delivers his lines with just enough boldness that it doesn’t come as bratty-ness.
Evangeline Lilly plays Bailey, Charlie’s love interest. She spends much of her screen time either pining for Jackman or fighting with him but she makes every screen minute count. I have always had a soft spot for her when she was on Lost and it is nice to see her talent has translated well onto the big screen.
Great acting aside, Real Steel‘s best quality is injecting a little heart into their robot film. When Charlie is assisting his robot during a fight, you can’t help but feel as emotional as the characters on the screen. In a way, both Charlie and his robot Atom are both fighters past their prime given one last shot at greatness. And who doesn’t love an underdog story?
The movie is far from perfect. The script is a bit wobbly. Some of the dialogue resonates, but some of it just sounds downright hokey. Though if you really think about it, no one watching a movie about robots fighting each other really is looking for a killer script. They just want to see some good fights and this movie does deliver it.
Real Steel is truly an iron giant with heart. The movie delivers a robot fighting experience that you would expect in a robot battling sports movie, but also succeeds in delivering a feel good father and son yarn. Give this movie a chance and like a dark horse, it can really surprise you.