Sorry, sorry. Meant to review this a week ago, but laziness and Arkham City got in the way. New review though. Be grateful.
Hugh Jackman in a film about boxing robots. On its own, that sentence is a pitch for a film that nobody this side of asylum walls would go and see. Being the cool and dangerous internet vigilante that I am, I’m here to tell you that Real Steel is better than the laughable concept and why you should check it out providing you have a) a childlike mind capable of not processing family films through a filter of hate, bile and cynicism or b) not seen Rocky for a while and wondered what it would be like crossed with Transformers.
The film is set in 2020 where robot boxing is king. It tells the story of ex-boxer and failing fight promoter Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman), who suddenly finds himself lumbered with his estranged son Max (Dakota Goya) and struggling to pay the bills. He owes a lot of people money, the least dangerous of which is his long suffering friend/boss/love interest Bailey (Evangeline Lilly). However, when father and son salvage a scrapped sparring bot by the name of Atom, the pair decide to train Atom in an effort to ease Charlie’s financial troubles and as a result, start growing closer together. I normally hate those poster whores who write things like the above “Rocky…crossed with Transformers” line just for a spot on the DVD cover. Thing is, that description is almost totally accurate. It is Rocky with robots i.e. an underdog from the streets gets a shot at the big time. Fair enough, that seems to be the plot for every boxing movie, but the Stallone parallels are strong. Jack Human is fine, playing the role that he normally does when he’s not got adamantium claws. Surprisingly, the lead kid, Dakota Goya (seen only briefly as the young Thor in… well, Thor) didn’t annoy me. Yes, he had the same smart-arse precocious kid lines that adults insist on writing for children, but he was pretty damn good. It was nice to see Evangeline Lilly outside of anticlimactic television shows too. She’s alright here. ‘Nuff said.
I know when what I’m watching a good family film when I wish I was 10 again so I could have my mind blown by it. If I were 10, I probably wouldn’t have seen Rocky and therefore would have been surprised by the whole thing. Plus, it’s robots beating seven bells out of each other AND you can tell which one is which AND there are no illusions of being “grown up” AND it’s not directed by Michael Bay. All the fighters are very well-designed with their own unique quirks. My favourite was Metro, a Frankenstein’s monster of a robot with a massive sledgehammer for a hand. Put simply, the robots work. The fights are all impressively shot and choreographed and the climactic fight actually feels like (I was going to say “a climax” here, but it ain’t that good) an epic finale.
What doesn’t work is the fairly laboured father/son bonding storyline. It’s alright, but it does get bogged down with cheese and saccharine over-sentimentality. This is excusable to a certain extent as the seemingly bulletproof excuse of “it’s for kids” rears its smug, punchable face, but even taking that into account, it still lays it on a little too thick. There’s some truly obnoxious product placement on display here, with Microsoft’s optimistic hopes that their Bing search engine will still exist in 2020 somehow making the concept of fighting robots less ludicrous. Having said that, it doesn’t spoil the overall sense of fun and still makes this an easy recommendation for a family film. If you’re an angry loner like me, you may still find things to enjoy about Real Steel. It’s fucking ridiculous, but it’s an inoffensive slice of fantasy fun. Stick that on your cover, Dreamworks!