Rock ’em, Sock ’em ‘Real Steel’

Courtesy of Touchstone Pictures

Taking a new approach to the ever-growing list of films with robots, DreamWorks’ newest fall release “Real Steel” has, unlike its predecessors, kept the idea of superhuman robots grounded. In this movie, these robots are human-made and human-operated in a future not all too different from where we’re headed toward.

“Real Steel” brings just what moviegoers look for in an action flick. Not only is it packed with raw, gritty robot fight scenes that make the MMA look like elementary school playground scuffles, it also brings a familiar underdog storyline back into theaters.

With “Rocky”-esque themes of pity and redemption, “Real Steel” follows the story of Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman), a washed-up boxer who lost everything when the world turned to robots for their entertainment and bloodshed. In this futuristic society, boxing has escalated so intensely that humans no longer provide enough power or brutality for the public’s pleasure. Charlie, once at the top of his game, has surrendered his entire life to the training and fighting of mediocre second-rate robots.

The story takes a turn by adding another emotional element to the film when Charlie’s long-lost love dies, leaving Charlie as the sole guardian to his estranged son Max (Dakota Goyo). Taking after his father, Max is bull-headed, stubborn, witty and obsessed with the world of robot boxing. As Charlie sees dollar signs in his eyes and Max sees an opportunity to see robots fight one-on-one, the two embark on a journey that takes them from nothing to the very top.

When father and son embark on a trip to a robot junkyard, a near-death experience leads Max to finding a Gen-2 sparring bot, specifically built only to take punches. This junkyard find proves to be even more special because of its incredibly rare “shadow-bot” function, which allows Charlie and Max to teach the robot everything they know about life, fighting and even dance, giving these two a fighting chance to be at the top.

Unlike some movies that look promising in their trailers but eventually fall short, “Real Steel” is everything its trailers promised and more. Not only are there intense fight scenes and a heart-wrenching underdog story, but the special effects, on-screen romance and story of redemption also take this movie beyond the traditional action flick.

Carrying on DreamWorks’ legacy of magnificent advancements in CGI, “Real Steel” shows that an advanced future may already be here with such spectacular special effects. Not necessarily flashy or needlessly incorporated, the film has a very realistic setting, with the robots almost organically placed into the environment. When watching the film and the interaction with the robots, the audience can easily be drawn into the world where these robots actually exist instead of being computer-generated.

“Real Steel” brings two rising stars to the world of feature films. Evangeline Lilly, who plays Charlie’s longtime friend and love interest Bailey Tallet, assumes the role as the leading lady. She not only brings ferocious intensity to her acting, but she also evolves into a sweet and beautiful starlet in the movie. Adding another feature film to his quick rise in Hollywood, Dakota Goyo does an extraordinary job at evoking emotion and fighting for his life in his role.

“Real Steel” also features extraordinary sets and music. One half of the scenery is futuristic showboating, and the other is low-tech and almost post-apocalyptic in appearance. Both are vivid and entirely thought out, from the lighting to the placement and attention to details. The music is great and diverse, with hard beats and even a few hip-hop hits that will have the audience jumping out of their seats.

Though it brings all of these traits to the plate, it does have a few flaws. In all of his films, Jackman has created a love-hate relationship with audiences, but having him play a man with little to no scruples stretches his acting to its farthest bounds.

Another flaw that the film bears is the plausibility of certain characters’ storylines. It’s highly unrealistic, even for a futuristic movie, to have the reunion between Charlie and Max in the way that it plays out. Because it plays such a large role in the film, the inconsistencies with reality kind of throw a wrench into the gears of the film, causing a lapse in credibility for the audience. Luckily, this powerhouse of an action film drives straight through this lapse.

If an action film that is jam-packed with brute force and amazing special effects is what you’re in store for, then “Real Steel” has everything you’re looking for and more. Just be forewarned to take it for what it is: an action film.

Rating: 4 out of 5