Real Steel still has some large flaws in many ways, but it isn’t hard to say that it has dethroned a certain transforming summer blockbuster from its spot as the top robot movie of the year (which it was only perched on because of a lack of competition).
For a film with a strong PG-13 rating for its word use (and possibly images of violence and one of animal abuse), it is still hard to determine who this film is made for as it tries too hard to reach a wide range of demographics. It feels awkward at many moments, and as I agree with my boyfriend, it felt like a roided out version of a movie made for the Disney channel that is trying just a little too hard.
Which is why this film should have kept with the less is more mantra in concern to the main story seeing as it comes off as a child’s film. Real Steel starts out on Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman), a man in debt to a lot of people as he tries to survive in a world that has moved past having him as a necessity. What I mean by this is that he used to be a boxer, but in this near future boxing with two guys bludgeoning each others’ skulls till brain damage sets in has given way to something a little more thrilling. Something involving robots. As silly as this concept is, and as many Rock’em Sock’em Robots jokes you will hear about this movie (which is paid respect to when one robot is decapitated with an uppercut, which I gleefully cheered on), the robots are truly spectacular in the fight scenes.
As they state in the film, the evolution into robot boxing is due to the desire of the masses to see carnage that just can’t be given with people in the ring, unless of course we go back to the days of the gladiator. Because of this, it is clear that a lot of time was spent perfecting these scenes, and in all honesty there were many moments in which I forgot that the robots weren’t real, as if they were filming on the set like the other actors.
The problems set in with the minor plots of the film. Starting with the son. In the beginning of the film, Charlie is saddled with a kid he hasn’t seen in years, if ever, after Max’s mother dies. Max (Dakota Goyo) is the perfect way to reach the younger generation, especially when considering his relationship with the robot, but for the older viewers his character can bring on some problems when thinking too much.
Problem 1 – Child trafficking. That’s right, Jackman sells his son to the aunt that would like to adopt him (though they have to spend the summer together). I know that it is used as a way in order to give Charlie money to buy a new robot (ie it is necessary for the plot), but this is the one time I think they should have gone with the familiar story in which a parent reluctantly takes on this role when there is no other choice.
Problem 2 – This kid is far too much like Anakin Skywalker during the pod racing scenes of Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace. And I am not just talking hair. His voice is the same, his cheering is the same, his cockiness is the same, and he can be just as annoying.
Problem 3 – The filmmakers try to recreate the same relationship found in ET between an alien and a little boy, but with a robot and a little boy. I can understand this simply because of a child’s imagination and how willing they are to find friends anywhere, whether they be imaginary, a favorite toy, etc., but then they try to make it something more by adding in moments that hint at AI that never fully plays out (including a shot in which the robot stares at himself in the mirror).
Problem 4 – Don’t even get me started on how the kid finds the robot. [spoilers] It would have been best had he simply tripped over the robot’s hand in the junkyard, but instead we get some over-the-top, Jurassic Park, child-endangerment moment in which the kid goes falling down a garbage luge to the cliff of a pit, only being saved at the last second by a robot’s arm sticking out of the mud.
These issues aside, as well as some minor gripes with the relationship between Jackman and Evangeline Lilly’s character, the film still turns out to be pretty entertaining thanks to its action sequences and phenomenal CGI work. Plus, the conversations to be had following a viewing about the future of boxing, as well as differences between human / robot “shadow-boxing” VS a fully remote controlled robot, are also an added bonus as well. Just remember that if you take your kids to this movie (which I recommend), they will be hearing some no-no words.
Final grade: B- Follow @BewareOfTrees