REAL STEEL (2011)
DIRECTOR: Shawn Levy
STARRING: Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lily, Dakota Goyo
GENRE: Sci-Fi, Family, Action
This impressive looking movie was a surprise for me. I admit, I mainly went to see it because of Hugh Jackman. I didn’t have very high expectations. To me it was a big screen movie based on the game “Rock-em, Sock-em Robots”. Yet, when I left the cinema I couldn’t help but smile. The reason being was that it was a true underdog story, where you rooted for the hero even if he was a bit of a dead-beat dad.
The opening sequence is fantastic and really sets the tone of the film well. Jackman plays a washed up boxer, called Charlie, with relish. He has that cocky side to him and it is this that gets him into trouble time and time again. You can’t help but like him, even though he isn’t that nice of a character. His entire motivation is to relive his glory days through his robots, since human boxing has been replaced by robot boxing. Jackman’s character even goes so far as to effectively selling his son that he only recently found out he had to the boys aunt. This is so he can get the money to buy a new robot to compete in the matches, since his own gets beaten….badly in the first bout of the movie
As for Dakota Goyo, who plays Jackmans son, Max, he is absolutly wonderful. He manages to convey the 11 year old boy, whose whole world has crashed around, him with such conviction. A lot rides on Max due to the fact that the plot hinges on how well the audience can empathise with him. Goyo doesn’t milk it nor relies on cheap tricks to do this. You can feel his pain as he sits in the courthouse having clocked his absent father for the first time. That one look conveys the emotions of a boy who has just lost his mum and his father apparently doesn’t really want him.
After a deal is made between Charlie and Maxe’s Aunt and Uncle for Charlie to spend time with him over the summer (which is all a con since Charlie is basically selling his son for $100 000 in order to buy a replacement robot, and so Max’s Aunt and Uncle can go on a cruise, which has been booked for months), you see how ill equiped Charlie is at being a dad. Boxing has been his life and up to a few days ago he didn’t even know he had a son, so it’s understandable why the two feel this way about each. Both are guarded with their feelings and it’s through finding a 1st generation sparring bot, named Atom that they both begin to bond. (For info a sparring Bot is one that is used for bigger meaner Bots to practice on. As is said in the movie, Atom is designed to take plenty hits but not dish them out.)
Both Goyo and Jackman play off each other well, and manage to convince you of the relationship that develops between father and son. There is an ease about them that is wonderful to watch and you can even catch some of the same mannerisms between the two, which strengthens this image.
The effects are amazing and although your mind knows that these are just CGI renditions of robots, you can’t help but be sucked in as each opponent beats the poop out of the other. The fact that it’s robots, doesn’t weaken the brutality of it and your mind draws comparisons to all the great boxing bouts from history. This is due to the boxer Sugar Ray Leonard acting as a boxing consultant.
As for Atom, the sparring robot, the special effect people have excelled themselves. Though Atom doesn’t speak and you only hear clicks, beeps and whirls, somehow they manage to capture an almost human side to him. His “face” has lights that emmulate eyes and a mouth, but just by a certain change in movement, the wire mesh manages to give different facial expressions. Atom was as much of an important character as Jackman and Goyo.
The journey from underground boxing fights, to the glitz of the world series is really interesting. Each fight is different and the styles vary too, so it doesn’t feel like you are watching the same fight with a different opponent.
Both the director and the screenwriters manage to balance both humour and action brilliantly. By the time the credits roll, you have a smile on your face for it truly is a feel good movie. David has taken on Goliath, the true underdog story.
One gripe I had was with the deal that Charlie made with Max’s Aunt and Uncle. After some thugs come to collect money Charlie owes them, Charlie takes Max back to his aunt and uncle. I understand that Charlie did this in order for Max to stay safe. He knew that this was not a safe world for Max to be. What was left unclear was whether Max was going to be staying with his Aunt and Uncle, with his dad visiting or if he was going to stay with his dad. It was a small niggle and didn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the film.
As usual we have the romantic sub plot, this time involving Evangeline Lily’s character Bailey. Evangeline was never a strong actress in Lost, and this doesn’t give any counter argument. She is neither good nor bad; she is just there to fill the role as moral compass.
Overall I really liked this film, and hope they do a sequel so we can see the rematch between Max’s robot and the reigning champ.