by Stefan Abrutat
I’m still not sure how exciting boxing would become if humans were replaced by eight foot tall robots. After all, without real danger, what’s the point? It seems to me that the sport would diminish to the plastic spectacle of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots or a video game, with none of the drama or emotion combat between two comparatively more squishy humans generates.
These considerations get tossed out with the contents of the spit bucket by Real Steel, a curious choice by movie-makers, seemingly hamstringing themselves before they’ve even begun. However, the movie is a lot better than I thought it could be possibly be, with some storming fight scenes that are nevertheless passionately involving.
Now, I’ve always considered Hugh Jackman to be a bit of a theatrical luvvie, whose heart seems to lie firmly in the theater, and especially in musicals. However, with a worried eyebrow raised, I found his turn as Wolverine in 2000’s X-Men and sequels refreshingly impressive. Since then I’ve been quite happy to trust his talent, and Real Steel doesn’t disappoint.
Jackman plays a somewhat nefarious former boxer who makes a precarious living building and training the robots that replaced him. While he scrambles for cash, he sees an opportunity to make a little by challenging his former sister-in-law for custody of his eleven-year-old son upon the death of his mother. With some plot legerdemain, the estranged two end up on a cross-country tour with a robot they recover from a scrap yard, combining a father-son redemption story with a Rocky-like emergence of a former-bum robot that suddenly finds itself, under Jackman’s control, capable of fighting above its pay-grade.
The relationship between Charlie (Jackman) and Max (played by an enthusiastic Dakota Goyo) blossoms throughout, with some nice spoken interplay. There are the occasional eye-rollers you can expect from a Disney movie, but they’re nowhere as bad as they could have been. Directed by Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum) and also starring Evangeline Lily (Lost) as the love interest with the forgiving nature of nothing less than a full-blown saint (Charlie really is a dick).
Tip: watch it on IMAX if you can. The fight scenes will make you gape.
ating: PG-13. Running time: 2 hours 6 minutes. Released: October 7, 2011.