Real Steel Directed by: Shawn Levy Cast: Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly, Dakota Goyo, Anthony Mackie Running Time: 2 hrs and 7 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: October 7, 2011
PLOT: In the future, boxers are robots. Now Charlie, a former boxer, manages a string of failures, but when his son Max (Goyo) is back in his life, and they discover an old robot named Atom, it could just be the comeback Charlie needs.
WHO'S IT FOR? Kids. Mostly young boys about the age of Max who is 11 in the film. Even if you love fighting, it's going to be tough to love the action in Real Steel.
EXPECTATIONS: Admittedly, they were low. I sat through one of the early trailers for the film, and it came up with every sports cliché it could. While I do like sports/fighting flicks, this one felt very forced.
Hugh Jackman as Charlie Kenton: OK, Charlie, it's you, not us. He's a jerk. That's right. He's cold, heartless, foolish, reckless and doesn't care about anyone but himself. Yes, this eventually changes, but not for a long while. Charlie is handed gifts (like shiny new robots) and abuses them immediately because ... I guess because some writer said "reckless" too many times when describing him in pitch meetings. Also, logically, if you are a fighter and that's all you know, why not find some underground fights? Why would the logical decision be to figure out computer systems and stand behind controls and lead a robot into the ring? Jackman does his smug Wolverine here, but without the cool world around him. It wasn't enjoyable. Score: 4
Evangeline Lilly as Bailey Tallet: OK, let me preface this that I don't ever feel sorry for actors. Not really. Not the same way I feel sorry for a skinny dog or a fat kid. I feel sorry for Lilly. She's reduced to playing Bailey and she's beyond this poorly written character. Bailey's dad used to manage Charlie in the ring. Now Bailey runs a boxing gym, which instead of turning into a work-out gym, MMA facility, or something else, it appears she figured out how to build robot boxers. More importantly, almost every moment for Lilly is spent starring dreamily at Jackman. While some of you might be thinking, "That's not a bad day's work." It looks so forced and fake. There's no need for an Adrian-type in this boxing film, but there Bailey is, standing in the crowd, tearing up, and I never bought it for a second. Score: 3
Dakota Goyo as Max Kenton: In a very odd decision, Someone told Goyo to pretend he's 19. Problem is, he's playing an 11-year-old. Max has just suffered his mother's death. He's dropped at the doorstep of a man (his dad, Charlie, who abandoned him) who only wants him for financial reasons. This doesn't get Max down at all. Actually, it seems the only thing that would upset Max would be if someone tried to stop him from fighting robots in back-alley tournaments. He hip-hop dances, explains life to anyone who will listen, demands beyond his years, and also can fix any mechanical/electrical issue because he plays video games. The only people who should be able to tolerate this character are those who are seven to 11 years old. The fact that he physically looks like Jake Lloyd (young Anakin Skywalker) didn't help matters either. Score: 3
Anthony Mackie as Finn: Finn is a hustler in this world of robot boxing. Mackie is clearly in the zone of, "Look, you guys respected me in The Hurt Locker and now I am going to grab as much cash as possible with any role offered to me." I don't blame him at all. Score: 4
TALKING: Max does a lot of it. A big moment between Charlie and Bailey goes like this: Bailey - You know what to do. Charlie - No, I don't. Bailey - You know. Charlie - I don't. And that's it. Scene's over. Most importantly, he somehow learned what to do. There is a vibe that assumes you won't bother paying attention to the society Real Steel has created, the way people parent, or anything else because ... robots punch things. Score: 4
SIGHTS: At least it's cool to watch robots fighting, right? No. Not really. When no emotional connection is made to these "good" or "bad" robots, we're just left watching machines smash into each other. Sometimes it looks like decent CGI, other times it looks like people in robot costumes. Charlie's truck looks kind of cool, but I am wondering why in the future does someone need a special window and wipers where their feet are. Again, if I get bored, I start noticing things. Score: 5
SOUNDS: Eminem is featured a couple of times in this kid's movie. Hey, if Ice Cube can make that Coors Light commercial and get snowed, who can hold it against Eminem for making a few bucks on this soundtrack? Danny Elfman is behind the musical score but not even that can help this film. Score: 4
BEST SCENE: Just for insanity's sake, let's go with our future society being OK with a robot battling a bull.
ENDING: And they all lived happily ever after. The end. I love the idea of Max going to school in the fall and writing a "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" paper. He gets to start it with, "My mom dying was the best thing that ever happened to me."
QUESTIONS: Why is it so rare to have a shadow application on your robot fighter? Did you notice we the audience are supposed to think it is fun that Charlie doesn't pay his debts, yet, when Ricky (Kevin Durand) tries to pull the same thing, he's a villain? If Aunt Debra (Hope Davis) wanted to desperately raise Max, why didn't she call all summer long?
REWATCHABILITY: Did you notice the running time is more than two hours? That, and the fact that I didn't like this movie, are reasons for me to never see it again.
In the future, everything is the same. Seriously, besides some electronic gadgets, everything is the same. Well, almost everything. Robots fight. They fight because boxing needed to compete with MMA and kickboxing. So, it only makes sense that a former fighter would start to manage robots, and that a kid would find an old one, who then gets a title shot in a couple of days.
At first the final fight with Atom looks to be Rocky Balboa vs. Apollo Creed I, but then it's almost exactly Rocky IV and suddenly, out of nowhere, we find out robots can get tired. Real Steel fails to explain this world and I have no understanding how this shadow-boxing feature actually works with Atom. If you watch, the rules of logic are constantly changing. It'd be one thing if it was entertaining, but since I found Real Steel boring, I spent my time wondering things like ... if our future society is absolutely bloodthirsty (said and shown a few times in this film), why don't they want blood? Whenever boxing is truly popular in our history, it's because of a fighter like Ali, Tyson or Balboa. These robots are almost void of personality.
Even though 11-year-old boys will want to see this movie, should they? A dead-beat dad, a society that craves violence and a kid who does whatever he wants are not things I'd want a kid to sit through, even if he does a little hip-hop dancing ... oh wait, ESPECIALLY if he does the dancing.
This doesn't feel like the evolution of video games or boxing. Real Steel feels like sitting next to a kid, and watching him play a video game, knowing it will never be your turn to have fun.
Real Steel fails to excite, explain or give me a reason to cheer.
FINAL SCORE: 3/10