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Star - Hugh Jackman
Genre - Action
County - USA
Certificate - PG13
Run Time - 127 minutes
Blockbusters - £1.50p per night Blue Ray rental
Awards - 1 Oscar nomination
Amazon - £5.00DVD (£11.34 Blue Ray)
I think it's fair to say that on first view of the dust cover for Real Steal it's a head scratcher on how it can possibly work as a motion picture, putting seemingly advanced fighting robots in a near contemporary setting and then see it has scored really well on the movie sites somewhat intriguing. Director Shawn Levy called the screenplay "a crazy premise" when he first read it but took it on all the same, the creator of Night at the Museum just about getting away with this as a Disney style Kids movie, best described as Rocky meets the Karate kid with a shot of Short Circuit and a bit of BFG, very much how can we cash in on the Transformers thing. It is certainly different and budding screenwriters should take not because of that. For what is a very simple premise for a film, seemingly based around the kids 1980s toy 'Rock Em Sock Em Robots', which was basically two fixed plastic robots that smashed hell out of each other in the ring when the user pressed a button as fast as they could, the screenplay for Real Steal sold for a mind boggling $850,000! After I read that fact I suddenly realized my screenplay ideas are not that stupid anymore. The Luggage Man is back on the type writer!
But it was the huge success of the Transformer movies that got this screenplay dusted down and sent on for a fresh treatment. Based loosely on an episode of the Twilight Zone from the 1960s, modern special effects and new model building skills allows for pretty much anything on the big screen now to come to life and the merchandising opportunities here were just too lucrative to turn this idea down. What kid doesn't love a robot toy! Throw a sentimental father/son story in the ring alongside an old flame still flickering for the aloof rugged male lead in the other corner not quite ready to throw the towel in and you have an excuse to make it into a mushy kid's movie and just sit back and count the money. Hollywood could turn Wild Strawberries into a romcom if they so chose.
Hugh Jackman ... Charlie Kenton
Dakota Goyo ... Max Kenton
Evangeline Lilly ... Bailey Tallet
Anthony Mackie ... Finn
Kevin Durand ... Ricky
Hope Davis ... Aunt Debra
James Rebhorn ... Marvin
Karl Yune ... Tak Mashido
Olga Fonda ... Farra Lemkova
John Gatins ... Kingpin
=== The Plot ===
It's the very near future and the people have somehow lost interest in violent sports like boxing and Ultimate Fighting so a demand for something new, robot boxing that sport, wherein fancy seven foot robots battle each other while being controlled by a human in the ring with a headset or remote. Handsome Charlie Kenton (High Jackman), a former boxer who's trying to make it in the new sport, is not doing well and soon in the red when his latest robot get smashed up by a bull at a rodeo.
When Charlie learns a distant ex girlfriend and mother of his son Max (Dakota Goyo) has died, he goes to court to try figure out what to do with the kid. Max's rich aunt (Hope Davis) wants to take him in but Charlie, as legal guardian, has first say in the matter. Not one to miss the chance to make a few quid, Charlie asks her husband for money so he can buy a new Robot in exchange for turning Max over to him for the summer to get to know the kid, then surrendering him thereafter.
The kid loves robots and seems to know more about them than dad does, a Japanese model called 'Noisy Boy' on the way across the sea for Charlie's fifty grand, the pair now living over a boxing gym come workshop owned by another one of Charlie's ex's, sexy grease monkey Bailey (Evangeline Lilly). But Charlie is too keen and enters Noisey Boy at the wrong level and Noisey Boy quickly toast in an illegal underground bout, meaning it's off to the scrap yard to steal some parts by night. Here Max falls for an old generation robot named Atom, literally, and helps dad restore him, their relationship dependent on it. Max wants Atom to fight but Charlie tells him he won't last a round a she is a shadow bot, trained to take punches not give them by copying the other robots movies. However, Atom wins his first fight with the kid on the controls and it isn't long before Atom is getting more serious fights, Max getting Charlie to teach Atom how to fight like he did in the ring, an advantage that may allow Atom a fight in the majors, that of the World Robot boxing League, Zeus the undefeated champion.
=== Results ===
Although a shameless, cynical and deliberate sentimental exercise it's not that bad, proving Hollywood can turn pretty much any idea into money. Take any mushy movie plot with a dad trying to bond with his estranged son because he spent too much time with the ladies and the booze and throw in the robot fights and you have a movie, Hollywood extremely guilty of reinvention around cliché.
Hugh Jackman is always appealing to both men and women as an actor and more than a lick of Mel Gibson in that appeal on screen of late, this, a breeze for Wolverine. The little annoying Hollywood kid is a little annoying Hollywood kid and yet another one with a silly name, mum seemingly naming 'Dakota Goyo' after the the last two handbags she bought on Rodeo Drive.
It was an expensive movie to make because of those Oscar nominated robots and came in at $110 million dollars. And they look great to, a mix of puppeteers, animatronics and motion capture getting them to do their stuff on screen, and a dash of CGI to tidy them up so making for fun punch ups. There is nothing too violent here and so suitable for kids of most ages and no doubt the robots suitable for a Christmas present or two if they do see it.
Making $300,000 million back 'Real Steel' never really gives us a reason to care but you can't help not like it as Hollywood is controlling you emotions throughout with the usual tricks. The robots can't cry so you will. But I enjoyed it throughout and likeable performances from all make for a decent rent at £1.50 per night from Blockbuster, especially the Blue Ray version. Certain films are made for the format and this certainly one of them. It's nothing special but will do the trick for a family film and you won't feel you have been short changed. Mixing Sc-Fi with kidcoms is something different and you can expect the sequel soon after its 7.1 rating on IMDB.COM.
=== Ratings ===
Imdb.com - 7.1/10.0 (150,234 votes)
Metacritc.com - 56% critic's approval rating
Rottentomatos.com - 60% critic's approval rating
-Making of Metal Valley-
Behind the scenes look at one of the films big set pieces.
Rather forced ones to beef up the extras.
-Building the Bots-
The robots look great on screen when they fight and this is how the FXs guys and girls did it.
The creators of Iron Man and Terminator 2 worked on the special effects here and so a no brainer on whether to Blue Ray up. The robots look great and appear to be real and fighting, not an easy feat. Works well on all aspects and has various options on the 3 Blue Ray disc options, which the rental isn't.
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1
English SDH, French, Spanish
50GB Blu-ray Disc
Three-disc set (1 BD, 2 DVDs)
Digital copy (on disc)
New Yorker -'Its remote-controlled emotional responses leave little room for genuine uplift'
Daily Telegraph -'Flashy and smashy, with some great paternal chemistry Real Steel is hugely derivative yet pretty enjoyable.
The Sun -'Good thing we all love Hugh Jackman so much'.
The Daily Express - 'It's an incredibly cynical movie, written and acted by robots, and boasting the most flagrant piece of product-placement for a certain soft drink'.
Top Critic -'Battling to be heard above the metal-on-metal clangour is a heartwarming (read: terribly soppy) story of a broken family.
The Sun Sentinel -'Wow, they actually made Rock Em Sock Em Robots - The Movie! Even more surprising is how amazing this movie is'.