Okay…I actually laughed when I first saw the trailer for Real Steel and thought, “Really, Hugh???” But then I read that Jackman made this film for his son and that at least made some sense to me. Still, I was going to wait for the film to go to DVD or hit HBO until I came across the opportunity to catch a screening and thought, “Why not?”
I should say off the bat, this film is much more engaging than I originally expected. Yes, it IS predictable in every way, however, it is (actually!) an enjoyable film. The basic premise is Hugh Jackman plays Charlie Kenton a deadbeat dad/former retired (pre-robot) boxer that had a title shot but never made it. Charlie explains the origin of robot boxing to his long lost eleven-year old son Max (Dakota Goyo). The pair was recently reunited after the passing of Max’s mother and Charlie has not seen his son since he disappeared from his life shortly after Max’s birth. In the decade since, robots have replaced humans in the sport of boxing in a sport evolution where only the strong (and more violent) survive. Throw in the always attractive Evangeline Lily (Lost) as Bailey- the daughter of Charlie’s old boxing coach and current bot mechanic- and you have a cast shinier than the polished machines in the ring. The Dreamworks film is set in the near future, somewhere after 2016, and is helmed by Director Shawn Levy (Date Night, Night at the Musuem) and cinematographer Mauro Fiore (Avatar).
For me, the performance that truly stood out was Dakota Goyo as Max, while of course, Hugh Jackman achieved as a charismatic absentee father as only he could. The visual effects were excellent, as expected, with the Avator-alumn taking the reins. The sound effects were amazing and very bass heavy (at least in the theater I saw it in) and added to the giant robot fight sequences and the overall experience. However, as polished and pretty as this film is…there are no surprises. Not one. What you see is what you get! And that disappointed me slightly. A futuristic drama is all about showing the comparison to the world we live in now to the world we end up in and how we got there and for me this film just didn’t deliver.
Predictability aside, Real Steel does have fun characters, cool robot fights, and the classic story of the underdog rising to the top. Bottom Line: If you have kids it is a great family friendly night out that everyone can enjoy. If you aren’t looking for a family film, its basically Rocky but with big bots and a big budget. Then again, “Why Not?”