Despite all the efforts of the trailer editor, the general story idea guy, and anyone in charge of potential sappiness, sometimes a movie can beat all the odds and still make you like it.
A funny thing happens every once in a while. Surely it doesn’t happen often, but it seems to have happened with this movie. Despite all the efforts of the trailer editor, the general story idea guy, and anyone in charge of potential sappiness, sometimes a movie can beat all the odds and still make you like it. Oh, man, that did I just type “beat the odds”? You see what this film has done to me?
Ok, at first look, this movie seems like some kind of goofy live action story about Rock’em Sock’em Robots. Who would do that? How could you make a movie about an old Mattel game? But then I hear we’re getting a movie “inspired by” the old Hasbro game Battleship. And if that weren’t enough food for thought, Ridley Scott is to direct a film based on the board game Monopoly? So it’s come to this, has it Hollywood? You really can’t find ANYONE with an original idea? Clearly, you aren’t looking hard enough.
Well, obviously there’s more to Real Steel than just plastic robots knocking each others blocks off, but there’s still a lot of that, albeit they’re made of metal and stand around 8 or so feet tall. And there’s an emotional story here, too. Spielberg has his mitts in this somewhere as Executive Producer, so that worried me, too.
Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) is an ex-boxer, now a promoter of robot boxing which is where boxing has gone in the not to distant future. But he’s usually down on his luck. When he finds out he’s been saddled with his 11 year old son, Max (Dakota Goyo) that he hasn’t seen in years, he has to deal with that. When they find an old beat up sparring robot in a junk yard, things begin to look up.
I have to say that everything about Real Steel tells me I should be rolling my eyes at every scene. It’s kind of a goofy idea. It’s occasionally borderline hokey and tries too hard to tug at my heart strings, and you kind of already know where it’s going to go from the start. But I said “borderline”, and “kind of”.
Surprisingly; and I really mean that; it stops just short of my involuntary gag reflex. Will Charlie warm up to the son he’s just met? Yeah, probably. Will they make something of this junkyard dog robot they find? Odds are pretty good. Will they deftly make us care about this father-son relationship? Will they carefully and subtly compare that to the relationship of Max and the robot? Will they make us care at all? OMG, yes. How the Hell did they do that? There’s no justifiable reason for us to actually buy into any of this, but I’ll be damned if they didn’t give me some.
The acting is pretty spot-on. Nobody chews up any scenery, they all commit and play it straight. The robot effects are excellent, and there are some pretty cool fights. Sure, there’s room to do a little eye-rolling, especially for the more jaded among us, but at the end of the day, the material is handled well enough that they manage to offer some fun and somehow make me feel for these characters. Believe me, I wouldn’t have believed me either, if I hadn’t seen it for myself. The true test is a moment in the final act where I was sure I was going to finally give in and laugh out loud at the melodrama, but instead I bought into the inspiration of the moment and actually FELT for these people. I’m giving this a solid three kittenhands. Solid. Dare I go three and a half? Perhaps.
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, very aware that this movie would have been ruined in the hands of Michael Bay simply because he is the kind of director that would choose to over emphasize that clichéd melodramatic crap and this movie managed NOT to.