Thursday, October 13, 2011

Real Steel (2011)

Seen: At AMC/Loews Harvard Square in Cambridge.

Set in a future where human-on-human boxing has been replaced with giant remote-control robots destroying each other for profit, Real Steel tells the heartwarming tale of a boy (Dakota Goyo) who's forced to spend the summer with his asshole boxer father (Hugh Jackman) after his mother dies. They find a used training robot in a dump, fix it up, teach it to fight, and end up doing one of those "underdog" things. It's all pretty standard.

This movie is half things I like and half things I'm bored of, which makes it about 50% Good Movie. I like Hugh Jackman- especially when he gets to play a jerk- and big robots that fight each other. I don't like kids, poorly-rendered female characters, or un-self-aware schmaltz. The premise is solid, taking a few sports/bad parenting drama cliches and mixing them in with a digestible science-fiction angle. The effects are top-notch, and I enjoyed the robot designs and the scattered futuristic gadgets (technology is updated but otherwise this future looks the same as our present, proving it isn't too far off). My favorite thing was probably Karl Yune's depiction of the most "Japanese" dude ever- he's a fashionable scientist prodigy with a lofty attitude and a thing for big robots.

Seriously though what the hell is up with Evangeline Lilly's character? At first I was like, hey tomboy robot mechanic trying to fill her dad's shoes, I can get behind that. But very quickly it became apparent that her character Bailey is just a boring lady lusting after Hugh Jackman for no apparent reason. She has no other characteristics, really. She likes boxing, but I think that's only because Hugh Jackman boxes. It's not like I walked into Real Steel looking for well-rounded female (or male) characters, but why write such a noticeably stupid part into your movie? She's not a necessary figure, she's doesn't do anything for the story. It's just annoying. The moment when she's in ecstasy over a pretty chaste kiss is unintentionally hilarious.

Anyway, Real Steel is pretty enjoyable in a lot of ways, mostly in the big-robots-fighting-each-other kind of way. Sometimes I couldn't figure out how intentional its at-times overwhelming cheesiness is, which makes for uneven viewing. Also the bad guy wasn't set up enough, why should I care if they win or lose the big climactic fight? Kevin Durand was a bigger villain than the main evil lady was. And the whole thing is way too long- it takes FOREVER to get going.


Pair This Movie With: We watched the Richard Matheson Twilight Zone episode "Steel" with Lee Marvin that has a similar premise before going out to see the movie. Otherwise, I don't know, any of those movies where an asshole finds him/herself stuck with a child who makes him/her a better person? There are a few sports ones like that I think. It's not really my genre, except for About a Boy.


  1. The point of Evangeline Lilly's character in this movie is to show how good-looking she is. Sad but true. I hope to see the actress in a good part in The Hobbit films.

    As for Real Steel, I did enjoy it. Even loved it mainly because among my other film passions I'm also a fan of action.

  2. 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 Alex.

  3. Lesya: I would say that Lilly is only in this because she's hot but then for most of her screentime she's wearing loose-fitting casual clothes and pj's, so she's pretty un-glamorous.

    Dan: Yeah for the most part all of its genre mixing does work! I forgot to mention that it's too long in my review, thanks for reminding me. The beginning is especially overlong.

  4. This is a bit like Stuart Gordon's Robot Jox, but with a budget. Ha.

  5. Yeah, I chose to believe the cheese was intentional, so as to increase my enjoyment. I really want to like any movie Hugh Jackman is in...but his choices make this a challenge.