Friday, October 7, 2011

Movie Review: "Real Steel"

It is rare, when there is so much smashing of metal against metal, to actually find some humanity and a story to go along with it, and Real Steel does this to great effect.

In the near future where humans no longer box against fellow humans, robots do the boxing for them. This leaves the human boxers as washed up robot trainers, like Hugh Jackman's Charlie Kenton. Down on his luck, forgotten his passion for the sport, and an absentee father, Jackman plays the role honest and true, making Charlie the kind of scumbag that doesn't deserve good luck. But when Charlie's ex-girlfriend dies and his son, Max, is thrust back into his life, Charlie's bad luck is turned around.

The real charm of Real Steel is how Dakota Goyo's Max uncovers an old sparring bot named Atom in a junk heap. You believe that Dakota Goyo actually thinks that Atom has a soul. As Max fixes Atom and Charlie trains him, the two embark on a journey to the Championship Ring as father-and-son. This just highlights the true charm of director Shawn Levy's work. The story mixes these great human elements with fantastical action. There is genuine drama, drama in the strained relationship between Max and Charlie, drama in the ring as Atom fights, not because we believe that Atom is a magic autonomous being, but because Max does, and he is the one we root for.

Real Steel's robots are brilliantly designed, with it unnoticeable when the filmmakers switch from the real, on-set animatronics, to the CG-robots. This coupled with the acting from all involved, from Hugh Jackman selling this sport with conviction and Dakota Goyo having that glint in his eye of Atom's magic, to the brilliant effects work, it suspends the viewer's disbelief and allows one to be wrapped up within these metal slug fests as if they were two humans duking it out in the ring.

Ultimately, Real Steel is all about redemption. Charlie Kenton redeems his relationship with his son, his relationship with his oldest love, Bailey (played charmingly by Evangeline Lily), and he redeems himself, finding his passion for boxing once again. Call it hokey, sentimental hogwash, but this is the kind of story that makes me love movies. Time is taken to create emotional investment. The story starts slow, lays it pieces, rather than bombarding the viewer with action, and then when it reaches the action, we are invested. From the watered eyes to the shivers shooting down our spine, we care, because the story took time to develop itself before rushing a pay-off.

Simply, Real Steel pulls no punches, leaves nothing in the ring, every blow lands and succeeds in making me feel like a 7-year-old kid again, when there still was wonder left in the world.

I give Real Steel a perfect A+!

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