I took my son with me to see Real Steel last night. Much like Rise of the Planet of the Apes, this was a movie that hit my radar late. I mean, I knew about it, and probably made the jokes everyone else made about Rock’em Sock’em Robots. It wasn’t until reviews started to come in that I really took note. Ebert liked it? Hmm. I’ve had my differences with his reviews in the past, but you can at least get a sense of the movie from Roger whether or not you end up agreeing with him.
Jackman’s character is a former boxer, Charlie Kenton, who got pushed aside when the human boxing game ended, and robots took over. Now he travels on the outer fringes of the robot boxing sport, fighting them at state fairs and underground arenas (sometimes badly). Complicating things for him is his son Max, who he takes on after his ex-girlfriend dies. He only agrees to that for cash to get another robot, as the kid’s rich aunt and uncle want to adopt him. Anyway, that’s not important.
The real story starts after Charlie gets a second robot (the one bought with the money from the aunt and uncle) destroyed, and they have to search for parts in a junk yard. Max finds an old fighting bot and in the process bonds with dear old dad. OF COURSE the underdog gets a shot at the big show, and digs down and…well, you know. If you’ve seen Rocky, or Rocky Balboa, or any other ‘little underdog beats the odds’ type of film, you know how it goes. That doesn’t make it any less fun, though. The fights are solid with real boxing choreography. The dialogue shades to the corny side. You have to accept a lot to get to a place where the only obvious robots in the world are the boxing ones but if you can, there’s a solid, enjoyable movie here. I think the last paragraph of Mr. Ebert’s review sums it up very well for the naysayers:
“Real Steel” is a real movie. It has characters, it matters who they are, it makes sense of its action, it has a compelling plot. This is the sort of movie, I suspect, young viewers went to the “Transformers” movies looking for. Readers have told me they loved and identified with their Transformers toys as children. Atom must come close to representing their fantasies. Sometimes you go into a movie with low expectations and are pleasantly surprised.
I was pleasantly surprised.