Directed by: Shawn Levy
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly, Dakota Goyo
Real Steel is basically the high concept idea of the Sylvester Stallone arm wrestling epic Over the Top combined with Rock’em Sock’em Robots. However, underneath that syrupy sweet coating of summer blockbusterism, there’s actually a pretty good story in there, just trying to get out. Like some sort of delicious robot pancake. Wait a minute, I have to go copyright that as the name of my next band.
Hugh Jackman is an ex-boxer and current terrible robot boxing controller. You see, in the not-so-distant future, robot boxing is all the rage, and Jackman has been in the game for years. When his estranged son’s mother dies and he’s forced to take care of the kid for a summer, he learns how to be a dad, and also how to not completely suck at robot boxing. Before this kid, he really, REALLY sucks at robot boxing. The kid builds up an older model ‘bot and they manage to take it almost to the very top of the robot boxing league.
It’s a very standardly-structured sports movie, with some not-too-deep emotional subtext about a man getting to know his son and learning how to be a father. They touch on a couple more interesting, subtle concepts, like the whole man vs machine thing with the good guy robot fighting more like a human boxer, and Jackman being someone who had gotten in a rut and more or less given on up living a worthwhile life. Unfortunately, I don’t think they really developed those ideas to the point they could’ve. Real Steel really seems like it could’ve been a film with some good action sequences and some legitimately interesting emotional conflicts… but it never really clicked that way for me. I could get into it, but I’ve already had an in-depth argument with my friend about it, and really, that’s way more interesting than yelling into a void about my nitpicks about animation minutia. See it if you like robots punching each other. That happens a whole bunch in this movie.