Real Steel

3 Nov

The plus side to being a sci-fi freak is that you never fail to catch every possibly sci-fi movie out there, hoping to uncover a gem among the cliché-ridden big budget snooze-fests. After the surprisingly good Super 8 (review), Real Steel (Directed by Shawn Levy) sucker punched us with an excellent package even with a slightly ‘done to death’ story.

Set in the year 2020, ‘Robot Boxing’ has replaced human boxing as the ultimate form of entertainment. Ex-boxer Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman), a struggling promoter is trying to make a quick buck with second rate robots and a cocky attitude. A damaged robot (called Ambush) later, Charlie returns home to Bailey Tallet (Evangeline Lilly) with a son from his ex-girlfriend (deceased), 11 year old Max Kenton (Dakota Goyo) in tow.

Hugh Jackman as Charlie Kenton with Ambush

Having handed custody to protective Aunt Debra (Hope Davis), Charlie has to keep Max for the summer after brokering a deal with her wealthy husband Marvin (James Rehborn). A shattered confidence and another destroyed robot (called Noisy Boy) later, Charlie and Max find themselves in the junkyard where Max unearths a second generation sparring bot called Atom. Through Max’s stubbornness and Charlie’s boxing skills, Atom manages to find itself in the ring with Zeus, reigning WRB (World Robot Boxing) Champion. And that isn’t what this is film is about.

Noisy Boy before he got knocked out

When Charlie confesses to Max “You deserve better… than me”; you are sold. After seeing Hugh Jackman as the superhero so many times that it was refreshing to see him in a more human and extremely flawed character. His transition from rogue conman to a responsible father was skilfully muscled together. At the same time, it was impressive to see him take a step back and let the spotlight shine on the heart of this film; Dakota Goyo. A screaming “I want you to fight for me!” Dakota has you in an emotional dump right after you’ve cheered him on with pump fisting enthusiasm. He mirrors Charlie’s traits like a shadow with ease that you’re completely enrolled into the father-son relationship. And this is what the film is about.

Dakota Goyo as adorable stubborn Max Kenton

Evangeline Lilly as Charlie’s childhood comfort corner has a decent role with the highlight being her reminiscing the time when Charlie was a great boxer. Her eyes say a million words. Supporting cast in the form of Anthony Mackie (as Finn), Hope Davis, James Rebhorn, Kevin Durrand (as Ricky), Karl Yune (as Tak Mashido) and Olga Fonda (as Farra Lemkova) play their parts well in their limited screen time.

Evangeline Lilly reminiscing Charlie’s past

Sugar Ray Leonard was brought on to the project to train Hugh Jackman. He was also required to give each robot its own style of boxing. Having him behind the scenes gives the fights that extra edge while with Hugh Jackman, more than the punches it’s the eyes that make you believe in his character.

Frustration as Noisy Boy gets knocked out

Atom’s shadow function enables him to flawlessly imitate every movement he sees. Dancing with Max, training with Charlie or handing out punches in the ring. You connect, you adore and hurt along with him.

Atom and Charlie Training

Unfortunately the lack of any kind of moral responsibility towards the much-loved robots like Atom from Max or Charlie was rather disappointing. Also when Atom stares into the mirror, you feel the possibility of a new sub plot. Although you wonder if he is a sentient, no reference is made to it again. Both omissions were a trick missed by the writers to steer away from a clichéd story. Loosely based on the short story ‘Steel’ by Richard Matheson, writers Dan Gilroy and Jeremy Leven don’t bring anything new to the table that we haven’t already seen a million times before. It’s the screenplay by John Gatins that lifts the story above its mediocre base and some good editing by Dean Zimmerman gives it the perfect pace to keep you entertained even with a slightly long running time of 127minutes.

Battered but still fighting

The visuals thrown at you were pleasing with excellent amount of camera angles giving an absorbing view of Robot Boxing. The CGI was impressive as expected, though the background score by Danny Elfman was quite hackneyed. The sheer amount of annoying product placements throughout the film was astonishing.

The Final Blow

You’ll love it thanks to a good chemistry between the lead actors while your brain is numbed by the modus operandi of the storyline. It still manages to hit the right cords and works in the bigger picture just by a margin.

Rating 6/10.

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