I saw a preview for Real Steel a while back and completely forgot about it until I noticed it at my local Redbox. I didn’t really have high expectations of the movie, but I love robots, so checked it out. Hugh Jackman (Wolverine) plays Charlie Kenton, a washed up boxer that now competes in humanoid robot battles. After the embarrassing destruction of yet another robot, some guys track him down and tell him his ex wife died and now custody of his 11 year old son Max falls to him. His sister-in-law that wants custody, and Charlie wants nothing to do with the kid. Just as he is about to sign over custody, he notices she is married to some rich old guy. Seeing an opportunity to buy another robot, Charlie makes a secret deal for 100K to sign over custody. Conveniently, the rich husband is planning a trip to Europe, so doesn’t want the kid quite yet. The deal is 50K now, 50K at the end of the summer. Charlie reluctantly takes Max on the road to explore the underworld of robot boxing.
I kept thinking that Max was played by Jake Lloyd (Anakin Skywalker from The Phantom Menace) but knew that he was almost 20 by now. Still, I had to look him up after the movie and was impressed by the likeness.
Max (Dakota Goyo)
Anakin (Jake Lloyd)
Anyway, the writers really went overboard with Charlie’s recklessness with the new robot. Why would anyone take a title match with off the bat having no practice with a new bot is beyond me. The new bot is promptly destroyed by the reigning champ of the local off circuit boxing bracket. So, with a ton of money down the drain, it is time to search the junkyard for parts to throw together a new robot. They discover an old discarded sparring robot, mainly used to train the “big boys” with. There was a hint of some type of AI hiding inside of Atom, the salvaged robot.
Max – “Are you in there?”
Atom – <Blank stare>
Max – “Don’t worry, your secret is safe with me!”
The movie could have taken a different direction at that point, but the idea really wasn’t explored any further. Instead, the focus is on Atom’s now-rare shadowing functionality. Basically it watches the owner and mimics the moves without the need of a complicated joystick or pre-programmed move combos. This seems to be a perfect opportunity for Charlie, the washed up boxer, to relive his dream. Instead, he is very reluctant to train Atom. The rest of the movie follows Atom’s rise to fame and eventual bout with the most badass robot in the circuit.
I wasn’t really expecting much from this movie. The plot was fairly predictable, yet I still enjoyed the movie. My heart got pumping during the various rounds Atom was fighting in, especially toward the end. One thing I was definitely impressed with was the special effects. I really couldn’t tell the difference between the animatronics and CGI. The acting could have been better. I kept having flashbacks to the whiny little Anakin Skywalker from The Phantom Menace. Despite some flaws, I still enjoyed the movie. I’m a sucker for robots.