The Fighter, Warrior, and just about every boxing/fighting movie released nowadays is compared to Rocky, but now with Real Steel we have a Rocky for kids; a film about boxing robots; and what’s really surprising is, as daft as it sounds, Real Steel is actually a very good movie.
Hugh Jackman (Wolverine) stars as former boxer Charlie Kenton; in the near future film where regular boxing has been completely replaced by robot boxing (because apparently fans love the no-holds-barred action that health and safety nuts wouldn’t allows with human fighters); and spends the beginning of the movie running cheap ‘bots on the underground fight circuit, generally losing pretty badly, and getting into a lot of debt.
But Charlie’s world changes forever when he’s granted temporary custody of his estranged son Max (Dakota Goyo, Thor), loses his only ‘bot in a fight he never should have taken, and is forced to place a junkyard sparring ‘bot named Atom into a number of unwinnable bouts (all at Max’s insistence; since the young lad has an unusual belief in Atom’s abilities, and sees something different in him); bringing both him and his son together as they attempt to ‘train’ and compete with Atom, make enough money to keep themselves afloat, and fight, punch, and smash their way to the top of the World Robot Boxing League.
It’s clear to see that Real Steel follows the Rocky formula; telling the underdog story of the down-and-out man with ability who, against all odds, gets his one shot at redemption; but it’s the relationship with his son, and his chance for redemption with him that really makes the film a success; the journey that Max goes through, in getting to know his father, his amazement at entering the world of robot boxing, and the heart that he clearly exudes in just about every scene he’s in.
In fact Dakota Goyo is easily the best thing about Real Steel (possibly aside for the amazingly impressive lighting; which is so good it’ll be a true crime if it doesn’t win the film an Oscar), as he acts each and every one of his many scenes to perfection, is every bit as melancholy, sad, excitable, and filled with amazement as any occasion calls for (making him utterly believable, and the real star of Real Steel), and he’s never overshadowed by fan favourite Hugh Jackman (who’s just as impressive as you would expect, though hard to take seriously as the utter asshole he’s supposed to be at the beginning of the movie).
Although the film is all about Charlie and Max, the supporting cast also fares well; with Kevin Durand (Robin Hood) giving a great performance as a rather unscrupulous promoter who Charlie’s forced to do business with, Evangeline Lily (Lost) playing the part of Charlie’s girlfriend (a throwaway part which isn’t really needed, and doesn’t give her much to do, but is filled out by her rather well), and other appearances from Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker), and James Rebhorn (Independence Day).
Real Steel also shows that Shawn Levy (director of Nightmare at the Museum and Date Night) is ready to take on bigger movies; as he does a fantastic job of setting the tone, bringing the best out of his actors, and beautifully framing every single shot; and it’s easy to see that producer Steven Spielberg’s influence is heavily felt within the film; something which is both welcomed, and appropriate, for a true family film with this much heart.
Real Steel is therefore a brilliant movie which is sure to be enjoyed by anyone that watches it; it’s a true family film the likes of which are rarely seen in cinemas nowadays (too often it’s nothing but r-rated adult movies, rom-coms, or kids movies which are too young for adults); a film with bucket loads of heart, a great story, great actors, brilliant direction, fantastic lighting, and the hugely enjoyable spectacle that comes from watching giant robots punching the bejesus out of each other (realised with superb effects); a real fun movie that should be seen buy everyone.