PG Cooper: Real Steel Review

Posted: October 10, 2011 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Release date: October 7th, 2011

Running time: 127 minutes

Written by: John Gatins

Based on: The short story “Steel” by Richard Matheson

Directed by: Shawn Levy

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Kevin Durand, and Evangeline Lilly

A lot of people have labelled this “Rock Em Sock Em Robots the Movie”. I see where these people are coming from, but I think this movie came from something else. It feels like a producer had a train of thought that went something like this, “Hmm, those Transformers movies have made a lot of money. Robots fight in those movies. Boxing is like fighting. Boxing movies make money. Therefore, robots + boxing= $$$!” And thus we have Real Steel, the story of a father and son…and there robot boxer.

The film takes place in a future where robot fighting has replaced boxing and MMA as far as fighting sports go. Personally, I have a hard time believing people would ever get tired of watching human beings pound the hell out of each other, but I digress. Because of this change, former boxer Charlie (Hugh Jackman) has had to scrape a living managing robot boxers. He is faced with hard times and a lot of debt. To make matters worse, he ends up having to take care of his eleven year old son (Dakota Goyo) who he abandoned when he was a baby. Charlie hates the kid and wants nothing to do with him…until the kid finds a robot and becomes profitable.

What can I say about this film? The story steals from several better films. The obvious film it takes from is Rocky. Now, it’s hard to do a film about boxing and not be compared to Rocky since it pretty much set the template for these types of films. But you take the basis of this film and it’s about an underdog boxer who’s down on his luck before getting his last big shot while finding the value in another person. Personally I would have rather this film take from Raging Bull, make Real Steel a film about a robot boxer who beats his wife. What really annoyed me though was not that Real Steel borrowed from Rocky. Hell that’s common in a sports movie, let alone a boxing movie. What bothered me was the way the film took the whole “boy and his robot” story. This is an angle that was used in The Iron Giant (which I haven’t seen since I was a little kid) and Terminator 2, which is one of my favourite films. There isn’t in original idea in the film. It also doesn’t help that the story tries to manufacture some drama with the kid, on top of  the fact that the film plays out exactly as you’d expect it to.

The cast doesn’t do much to help the film. The acting from most of the side characters was really hammy and over done. Then there’s people who just aren’t very convincing in their roles like Evangeline Lilly. Then you have Anthony Mackie in here, who isn’t bad, but every time he’s on screen you can’t help but wonder what the hell he’s doing in this movie. Then there’s the kid, played by Dakota Goyo. I find most kids in films fall under one of two extremes. They’re either really good, or really annoying and unfortunately for the audience, Goyo falls into the latter category. Finally there’s Hugh Jackman in the lead. Jackman’s a decent actor but his character was really inconsistent. One minute, he was a jerk, then he would genuinely care for the kid, and a second later he would go back to being a jerk. He isn’t bad in it per say, and I blame the writing more than anything.

What probably annoyed me the most about the film is how much it played to kids. I don’t hate kids films, but the film just felt like it had to be stupid to please the kiddies. Even the fact that there’s a hip young kid in the movie feels like it was there for a surrogate for the kids. I can’t speak for everybody, but I know when I was a kid I didn’t want to be the kid character in the movies, I wanted to be the adult. It’s like the logic that kids who watch Batman want to be Robin. Bullshit, kids wanna be Batman. The movie also has a lot of stupid moments in there for kids, like the robot dancing, which happens a lot. Again, when I was a kid, I would view that as the film condescending to me. The films I liked as a kid were the ones that took me seriously. The ones that didn’t feel like they needed to simplify things for me.

I will say that the robot fights were pretty cool. There empty and shallow yes, but they’re entertaining. I also like the design of the robots and how they mesh with the real world. And I will say for all my complaints, I was never bored. With that said, the film doesn’t rise beyond being a rental. If you really wanna see things fighting in theaters, see if you can find a showing of Warrior.

Rating: C-

  1. There is a LOT you have to overlook with this movie in order to enjoy it.

    You have to completely forget the fact its characters are paint by number, that the story has utterly been done before, that the acting isn’t great in any regard, and that there are numerous, numerous questionable plot points, side characters, motivational questions, etc etc.

    In fact, playing “critic” with this movie is almost like bullying the special needs kids at school. Its just not fair, its way too easy…

    That said… I had to admit it was more fun than not. I left with a “yeah, ok…” kind of feeling. How ever it worked, as formulaic as it was, I didnt have a bad time watching it, and that’s the most important thing.

  2. Ipodman says:

    I havent seen this movie, but it looks pretty cool…

    Yea its childish and stupid but so what…I like family movies…

  3. CMrok93 says:

    Real Steel is a blast, an unabashed crowd-pleaser that mixes Rocky, Transformers, video games and father-son bonding to great, if corny, effect. Still didn’t need to be 127 minutes though. Nice review PG.

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