Review: ‘Real Steel’ Rocks and Socks ‘Em

Ever since playing Wolverine in X-Men, Hugh Jackman quickly became one of my favorite actors. Looks like others agree too, as we can see him in every single X-Men movie, even X-Men: First Class. As a fan of Jackman, seeing the Real Steel trailer for the first time made me cringe. Yeah, the idea of Jackman starring as a promoter in a movie about robots boxing doesn’t sound too promising.

Luckily, the movie is actually fun and is like a Rocky movie disguised as Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots with a lot of heart. Jackman is very likeable as the jackass father, Charlie Kenton, who’s only out for himself. That’s just how good Jackman is. I mean, he abandoned his son at an early age and yet I’m still rooting for the guy. Jackman isn’t the only one I’m rooting for, as we get to meet the adorable Dakota Goyo as Charlie’s son, Max. You may remember him as young Thor in Marvel’s Thor. He has a lot of fun playing Max with scenes where he’s dancing in sync with his robot and talking smack to other robot promoters, like a true promoter.

Charlie has been making a lot of bad bets as he owes a lot of people money and recently just lost his fighting robot. Charlie’s ex-wife just recently died and he has to go to court for a custody battle against his ex-wife’s sister. Now with no money and in need of a new fighting robot, he plans to get the money by releasing all custody rights to her. Charlie does a secret deal with the sister’s sugar daddy, and he accepts and gives Charlie money. On top of giving full custody to the sister, he will have to babysit Max as the couple goes on a short vacation in Europe. Max catches early on that Charlie is just babysitting him for money and is expendable and decides to be a pain in the ass, but at the same time is intrigued by his father as a former boxer and a promoter.

One of my favorite characters in the movie is Kevin Durand as Charlie’s rival, Ricky. He plays the redneck bad guy with a lot of cockiness and smiles. Can’t forget about Evangeline Lilly. She’s as lovely as always and does her job of helping Charlie and Max bond together. Anthony Mackie plays Fin, who helps set up fights for Charlie in the underground boxing world.

The Rocky of the movie comes in the form of an older generation robot named Atom. He’s originally meant to be a sparring bot, but Max has a lot of faith in his ability and convinces Charlie to put Atom in a fight. Well, if Transformers has taught us anything, it’s that robot fighting is cool. Unlike Michael Bay’s Transformers, you can actually tell what’s going on and are more invested in the fights. There were many parts where I was miming the fights and rooting for Atom to beat the crap out of the other robots. The other robots include Midas, the gladiator-looking robot; Noisy Boy, the Japanese-inspired robot; Twin Cities, the two-headed robot; and Zeus, the granddaddy of tough robots and is owned by a hot Eastern European and programmed by a Japanese guy who thinks he’s a J-pop star.

We’re getting to the point where we can create realistic looking robots, as the movie incorporates a Jurassic Park-style blend of CG and practical animatronics. I thought the whole movie used CG robots, but was later informed that there were plenty of shots that used real working robots.

This movie is definitely a surprise and I was moved by Charlie, Max, and Atom’s journey that anything is possible. The concept may seem silly, but on the inside, it’s a motivational underdog story and a heartwarming family story. Give this movie a try and see if you’ll be rooting for Atom by the end of the last round.

Grade: B

Real Steel punches into theaters on October 7, 2011.

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