Anthony's Film Review
Real Steel (2011)
A formulaic but thrilling sports movie with an interesting sci-fi twist...
Believe it or not, the only reason I got a bit curious about the movie Real Steel was that it addressed my main objection to boxing. Participants get hurt in such combative sports, and, for me, that really takes the fun out of watching it. But when I saw the trailer for Real Steel, I thought, "Hmmm. A boxing movie that involves robots, not humans. I wouldn't mind seeing that. In fact, I wouldn't care if the robots explode or are defeated in violent ways. If they don't feel any pain, it's all good, as long as no humans are harmed in the contest." I kept thinking of this even while watching the movie itself.
I also admired the creativity of the filmmakers in their vision of what a robot boxing culture would look like: very much like the culture of other major sports today. In other words, lots of die-hard fans, matches taking place in professional leagues, corporate sponsors for the biggest events, and even live television coverage on the sports channel ESPN. But what I especially loved is how robot boxing is less constrained than human boxing, as participants can design boxing robots in any way they like and use whatever technology they wish to control the robot, such as remote controls and voice commands, and even give the robot some extra goodies, like intelligence.
There is a story in this movie, which I found to be just as interesting. Hugh Jackman is a former boxer named Charlie Kenton, who now makes a living off winning robot boxing matches. Unfortunately, he faces bad luck when he loses a great deal of money from defeat in two boxing matches. Around this time, Charlie's 11-year-old son Max, played by Dakota Goyo, comes to spend time with him temporarily as part of a custody agreement with Max's aunt. The boy is very unhappy at first, but soon, it's clear that one thing might bring him and Charlie together: robot boxing.
With the help of Evangeline Lilly as a robot mechanic named Bailey Tallet, the father and son strive to win some money from robot boxing. One day, Max discovers a discarded but mostly intact fighting robot named Atom. Although Atom is an early second-generation fighting robot that is obsolete compared to other fighting robots, Max becomes attached to Atom. Even Charlie does too, especially as he discovers that Atom's programmed ability to shadow a human's actions may prove useful in the ring. Pretty soon, Atom becomes a sensation, inching closer to fighting the ultimate opponent in the World Robot Boxing league: a fearsome undefeated robot named Zeus.
Thankfully, the robot boxing and the scenes of father-son bonding outside the ring complement each other. I found myself continuously engaged even as the movie alternates from one to the other. There's also that familiar thrill with sports movies when the underdog emerges as a real contender and may possibly achieve ultimate victory. If you like those kinds of movies, especially the Rocky movies (it is even said that parts of Real Steel are borrowed from Rocky IV), you'll probably like Real Steel as well, provided you don't mind the science-fiction element of it.
Simply put, I enjoyed Real Steel. Whether I was watching Charlie and Max smiling together, the robot match between Midas and Noisy Boy, or the fight between Atom and a two-headed robot named Twin Cities, I couldn't help but nod and smile, even if the movie was something I'd seen before. The important thing is that the movie explores a fun idea and features a main cast that, I must admit, delivers good performances. Overall, it's solid like real steel.
For more information about Real Steel, visit the Internet Movie Database.