Hey everybody, remember how fun this was?
Now you can revisit the fun of punching, jabbing, head popping-offing robots, only in high-tech CGI and on the big screen!
That may feel like sarcasm, but it’s not. The best part of Real Steel is seriously the robot-on-robot fight action. As my 28yo brother said, this movie could’ve been two hours longer and I’d be happy— as long as those two hours were robots fighting. There’s an 11yo boy in all of us that loves this sort of movie, am I right?
I could have gone for more Evangeline Lilly (how I miss you, Kate from Lost) and more of this guy. Because how awesome is this dude’s hair?
Brief recap of the plotline:
Pretty boy Hugh Jackman is Charlie Kenton, a fight promoter hitting bottom in a near-future world where robots now do the boxing in the ring. He’s agreed to take care of his son Max for just the summer, after the boy’s mother passes away. Together they find and fight an underdog robot that defies expectations, becoming a contender and bringing father and son together.
Warning: vague plot spoiling to come, but that shouldn’t affect your enjoyment of the movie.
The plot is fairly predictable, which is fine with these sorts of movies, I think. But I kept comparing it in my mind to Warrior, which was also predictable but hugely character-driven. It’s an apples and oranges comparison, but I don’t feel like we’re given enough information about anyone but Charlie, to really have an emotional investment in the outcome.
- I really really wish the child had been a daughter; that’s a personal thing but wouldn’t it be awesome if this role had been played by a kickass little girl? Video games and remote control, after all, not being gender specific.
- I also really wish we’d learned more about Max’s deceased mother— his character is very strong, willful, and he knows all about the robot boxing biz. Was she part of it, too? Or did she encourage this interest he shared with his father?
- We’re led to believe that Max thinks there’s someone ‘in there’ in the robot, that he can ‘hear him.’ If so, how could he be willing to put him in the ring for nearly certain annihilation? (This point really bugged me.) I can kinda see where the robot acts as an emotional stand-in for the unaccessible Charlie, and doesn’t play that role anymore once Charlie becomes Dad. But if that’s where they were going with that, it all ended up on the cutting room floor.
- The ‘villains’ were not very fleshed out at all. Why were they so mean and unfair? I really like a complex villain, either one that’s fun to hate or I’m conflicted about or I’m secretly rooting for. The two adversaries that we’re dealing with for the climax are kind of eh— we root against them because we’re told to, or because their hair is too perfect. Or, just because we want Charlie and Max to win.
Which we do, and that’s a major plus to this movie. You want the feel-good payoff, and you totally get it.
Other nitpicky issues, just because I need to get them out:
- The “seedy underground” fights took place before audiences of what appeared to be retired skinheads and circus freaks. I get that they’re supposed to be weird and sort of scary, but the costuming choices were ridic and I could. not. stop. laughing, which took me out of the movie some. But, for younger viewers this probably eases some of the tension in these scenes.
- Charlie coaches Max to dance with the robot (Atom) before their fights, as part of “the show.” So for the final showdown I was really expecting something epic and— nothing. They just paraded in. Boooooooo.
So, not the most plot-dense or character-driven movie that’s out there. It’s comic book fare, and as long as you’re not expecting War and Peace or even Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, you’re fine.
Here’s the important bit: the robot fights are awesome.
The robot boxing scenes were done with motion-capture technology and practical-built, full-scale robots:
Fighters were put in the ring wearing data-capturing jumpsuits and as they fought, their motions were converted into robot avatars in the computer and instantaneously appeared on the monitors on set. Then, during principal photography, the filmmakers lined up their cameras on an empty ring and the motion-capture data streamed through their cameras, allowing them to watch and frame the robot fighting in the ring in real time.
So the movement is fluid and entirely believable. And Hugh Jackman? Trained with Sugar Ray Leonard for his part as an ex-boxer (and, as you find out in this clip, Hugh’s father was a boxer as well).
It’s a fun movie that caters to a robot-loving boy crowd.
I would have loved it more if it acknowledged robot-loving girls, but I enjoyed it nonetheless, in spite of (or more likely because of) its campy, cheesy moments.
But movie makers, take note! If I’m willing to sacrifice plot and character for action, I wants more robot action scenes! Come on now!
(And more Evangeline Lilly.)