Real Steel is such a guilty pleasure; it is completely over the top yet loaded with the heartfelt underdog clichés we have come to expect from sport films.
Hugh Jackman plays a retired boxer who now lives in a world where the crowd watch colossal robots battle to destruction in the ring instead. His life is ruinous with a string of bad choices and a selfish attitude, but when he is reunited with his son after his wife dies, courage to fight back and win returns.
There aren’t really any surprises here, Real Steel is what it is; a boxing film with giant robots. But there are some unique character developments and subtext because of the robots, as cheesy as it clearly is, the “heart over mind” and “human will over machine precision” is strong, and not something found in Rocky movies.
Plus, the robot designs are pretty awesome! There are several robots in different scenarios, and each one has a unique personality and design to them, from the junkyard fixer-uppers to the high-end (… “definitely Japanese”) glossy machines. You could look at them all day, and I will admit unlike Transformers, Real Steel gives you a chance to see them while they are fighting…
I should say though, Atom (the underdog robot Jackman and his son use) is a little too cute looking, it has a strategically placed scratch on its face that makes it look like an innocent smile. It looks completely gormless while fighting.
Another issue I have is the initial meeting of Jackman and his son. While Jackman’s performance is great throughout (and so is Dakota Goyo) the kid’s custody is decided between going to Italy with his aunt or be with his Dad who works with giant fighting robots (giant fighting robots he is a massive dorky fan of) and he complains. Kid… giant fighting robots, or Italy? I understood his hatred of his dad, but really, you couldn’t see the silver lining there?
The other thing was the mother’s unknown “off screen cause of death”… it felt no more than a plot device for these characters. It is hard to fit that ex-position realistically to conversations, but knowing what happened to her would have helped.
Predictable but a lot of fun, definitely an entertaining way to spend two hours once it gets going. If you are hesitant to see it… give it a go, it might surprise you.