BLOGS

<i>Real Steel</i>: Four Solid Reasons to See This Movie, With or Without a Small Child

I'm sure you've heard of Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots: The Movie by now, but just in case you haven't, Real Steel is a family-friendly(ish) action flick set in a near-future where BattleBots is no longer confined to early '00s Comedy Central lineups but instead is all the rage in modern society -- think boxing with more theatrics. The film follows has-been Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) and his estranged son Max (Dakota Goyo) as they compete in the wild world of competitive robot fighting with their long-shot junkyard-found machine boxer, all while coincidentally building their father-son relationship. Now, whether you think that premise sounds amazing, campy or absurdly terrible when translated to film, you are correct. I went into the movie hoping to have some fun and see a few dirty robots get the motors kicked out of them, and I'm happy to say Real Steel delivered the goods. Here's what else I got just for sitting through it:

A Fine Cast
Remember this picture of Jackman at the beach that was all the rage on the Internet a few years ago? The Aussie's Real Steel performance was the acting equivalent of the photo: silly, hilarious, forgivable, so right and so wrong. His accent was all over the place, and I just couldn't get enough of his barely believable deadbeat character. I don't know if anyone else would have been able to sell Rocky with robots quite so well, and I applaud him for that. And if you hated Kate on Lost but like Evangeline Lilly, you'll enjoy her character here, since she moves the plot ahead without royally screwing anything up. Our child actor, Goyo (who also voices Timmy Tibble on PBS' Arthur, a series which I may or may not be a longtime fan of), pulled smartass Max off. I think if I were prepubescent, I would have a crush on him. He's slightly foul mouthed, so be warned if you're bringing kids.

A Few Dumb Laughs
Of course, in a movie like this, I didn't actually laugh any of the intended jokes but, rather, at the absurdity of a few choice moments. I'm not going to spoil anything for you, but I highly suggest you focus your attention at Jackman's character during his final fight. Otherwise, it didn't have too many things to scoff at -- sure, you'll have to forgive a few plot holes and handful of archetypal characters, but Real Steel succeeded where the Transformers movies have failed so many times by focusing on the CGI robot sequences and then writing a story that makes sense around them, rather than trying to pretend people are going to theaters to see Tree of Life with cyborgs.

An Enjoyable Perspective of the Future
I liked that in the future (no more than 10 years from now, from what I can gather) things are still crappy... in fact, the only way the 2020s are really any different from today is the whole robot-fighting craze and a few boosts in technology -- assuming you are one of the movie's sponsors (don't worry, Dr. Pepper still has the same great, refreshing taste). These action movies are always cash cows complete with toy tie-ins and Halloween costumes, but that's not to say Real Steel is as soulless as Transformers. In terms of heart, it leans a little more toward Super 8, and I mean that in a positive way.

Excellent Robot Fighting
There's an abundance of battle scenes -- one with a CGI bull! -- and they're all pretty damn fun. I expected there to be a Twilight Zone (fun fact: the episode "Steel" was based on the same Richard Matheson short story as Real Steel) twist where Charlie has to be the robot in order to win the fight and his son's affection, but that's not the case... which really is a shame since it worked so well for Homer and Bart in The Simpsons' "I, (Annoyed Grunt)-Bot." The good news is that a sequel is already in the works, so there's plenty of time for JackmanBot 5000.

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