A reviewgitation with
Direcow and Korgath
On first glance, Real Steel is a geeky movie that’s right up our alley. It’s got Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly and huge 2000 pound robots. What’s not to love?
Real Steel opened earlier this week, which is a kinda odd time of the year to be releasing a story about boxing robots. But seeing how the movie, like so many others we’ve seen this year, appears to be suffering from an identity crisis, perhaps the lack of box office competition in October makes it the best time.
So is this Hugh Jackman’s big comeback after the travesty that was the Wolverine Origins movie? How did Lost star Evangeline Lilly do in her first silver screen leading role? And just who does 12-year-old Dakota Goyo think he is, showing up once again this year after his bit role as young Thor?
In the year 2020, washed-out boxer Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) controls gigantic robots to fight, Rock’em Sock’em style. It’s a dead-end career because he’s not so good at the business side of things, and his overcompensating bravado and odd gambling skills (he bets on himself, a lot) mean he owes more money than he earns. To top things off, he finds out that and ex-squeeze of his has recently passed away, and he now potentially has custody of his pre-teen son Max (Dakota Goyo), whom he has not seen for a decade. When the boy discovers a robot named Atom, life starts to change for the two.
And from the get go, you think you know where this movie is going. A boxing movie, a failure of a father and his estranged son – this pretty much seemed to be a paint by the numbers feel good movie event of the … autumn. A strange thing happened then – it wasn’t.
Well, it took a lot of detours getting there, but I still say it was ultimately a feel good movie for me – one that insists that you feel good or they’ll make Dakota Goyo look at you with his puppy dog eyes.
Well yeah, you did put it better than me. We’re definitely getting to the weakness of Real Steel first here – that it tries to hard to be too many different movies. Admittedly, being a direct copy of Rocky might be exactly what the producers and writers did not want, but that being said, some formulas just work well enough.
It was a little jarring at first to see the supposed main character Charlie Kenton be such a award-winning douche at the beginning of the movie, not the kind of hero that you want to be rooting for (as the case goes for these Rocky-type movies). He tries to make a fast buck from three delightful (reel and real) siblings for taking a picture of his fighting robot, swaggers into a custody hearing with no intention of staying long, and finally gets the money he desperately needs by demanding $100k in exchange for relinquishing full custody of his son. And all that in the first 20 minutes!
That’s right … in the end Max is the true hero of the story, that, and Atom. The headlining, name in the marquee actor is not the main character in the end. But yet he is! Because it is a story about his redemption. The story never really lets us have anybody to put all our money on, but then again, you do know they’re all going to win at the end.
It’s very much a contradiction, because while on the one hand you wonder why the plot is meandering so much to its obvious and eventual conclusion, yet on the other, the ride itself never really feels like a drag, and each scene, disjointed as they are, does help to keep the story trundling along without taking you out of it too much. Well, with one glaring exception.
Showing off some fine cleavage, but effectively cementing the PG-13 rating that had clearly been a result of the human-on-human violence in the previous scene.
I would admit that other than some chuckles I got when her accent slipped, Evangeline Lilly was pretty much a throwaway character with an almost inconsequential plotline, given that we had 3 heroes to root for.
Exactly. Why they even had to throw in a romance subplot that had no time to build and zero emotional payoff baffles me. Fortunately, Lilly is pretty good on the eyes and her character Bailey Tallet does set up the climatic ending rather well.
And for all the bashing we’ve given the film so far – there’s also a lot of other good that the film has. Charlie and Max end up having some really good chemistry – in fact Dakota Goyo does a fantastic job as Max. I believe the audience was truly behind him throughout the journey.
It is to Jackman’s credit that he easily snaps into a supporting actor role by allowing Goyo to truly shine in every scene they share. Although I came to the movie wanting to watch Jackman (having loved literally every movie he’s been in, good or otherwise, like X-Men, Kate and Leopold and The Prestige), I found myself fast becoming a fan of the child actor and rooting for him instead.
And Atom – this is also his little underdog story, and throughout each fight you’re really on edge as you watch him take the punches and try to give it back as hard as he can. It really helps the movie that the fights (choreographed by Sugar Ray Leonard) are extremely well done, and very thrilling – and featuring, I believe, callbacks to classic matches of yesteryear.
I will admit that I’m honestly not a fan of Atom’s design – too much of a Wall-E vibe going on with those big blue eyes of his. Sadly, it was the one thing that hindered me from further enjoying the movie.
Yep! Throughout the entire movie, each time he “spoke” I thought he was saying Eee-Vaaaa. But I think other than being a little similar to Wall-E, those eyes did manage to give us something to connect with.
I guess in conclusion, our friend Jack so put it best, and I paraphrase “This movie is perfect for schoolkids, too bad they’re all in the middle of exams right now.” No, it will never be the cult classic that Rocky was, and clearly, with all the nostalgic Americana juxtaposed with the sheer intensity of product placement, we’re clearly not the movie’s target audience. It’s definitely not a geeky film despite the cast and the robots, but if you need a good ol’ Hollywood film to top off your weekend, catch Real Steel at your cinema of choice.
A solid 7/10 for a movie that will never be great, but had fun trying.
There’s really a lot that you might wish the film would delve into – like more of the robot tech, or more about what broke Charlie, but the movie already has a lot going on. There’s definitely some fat it could have trimmed, and some really weird moments like when the Charlie and Bailey subplot decided to suddenly appear or when the film decided to be more futuristic with Tron-esque costumes out of nowhere or Japanese “actors” not really acting. But strangely enough, this is a film you’re rooting for. This is a film that for all it’s flaws is a little like the underdog robot fighting for the championship (except this little robot probably got tons of funding, unlike real underdogs) and when it hits the right punches you cheer. It’s no knockout, but Real Steel wins by TKO. 8/10.
WHAT YOU MEAN YOU HATED THIS MOVIE SO MUCH BUT YOU GAVE IT A PRETTY GOOD SCORE? Yes.
(Also, I had a good laugh when the geeks lost against Atom. Lousy geeks. Pshaw!)
(Bonus points for the Lost reunion for Lilly and Kevin Durand PLUS did you notice that Evangeline Lilly got close to Charlie’s kid – Just like in LOST! DUM DUM DUMB)
Bonus points for the Wolverine reunion with Hugh Jackman and Kevin Durand! Wait, maybe that’s how Durand got his rather laughable role in the first place. Bonus points rescinded.