“Real Steel” Fights its Way to Number One in the Box Office


Laura Drinan

**This review may contain spoilers**

A story with an extraordinary punch of heartwarming drama and cool, bang-up action scenes, “Real Steel” captures the box office since its theater release on October 7, 2011. What appears to be a crossover of Transformers’ crime fighting robots, and Rocky’s boxing thrills, actually has some quality, original material. Differing from Hollywood’s happy endings, the film still leaves viewers pleased and satisfied.

Real Steel’s talented cast animates the movie throughout its adventure, action, comedy, and tragedy. Set in the near future, circa 2020, where human boxing is obsolete, robots step into the ring for a fast paced, action packed one-minute showdown. Hugh Jackman plays main character, Charlie Kenton, an ex-boxer and a sellout, promotes the sport of robot boxing. He takes whatever money he can from a battle, but always manages to dig himself deeper in a hole of debt. In an attempt to earn some cash, Charlie takes a daring bet at a county rodeo, and demolishes his last robot, Ambush. With unbelievable timing, he learns of the death of a past girlfriend, and Charlie is summoned to a court hearing in Texas, where the he is left with his eleven-year-old son, Max (Dakota Goyo). Surprisingly, for a young actor, Goyo shows a wide variety of talent for his somewhat flatly written character, but still produces a believable performance, and also gives promises to his future films’ quality. Charlie, the deadbeat dad, wants as little to do with Max as possible, but gets stuck with him after making a deal with Max’s wealthy uncle Marvin. Here’s the cache: Marvin and his wife, Debra, are going to Italy for two months and don’t want to take little Max with them. If Charlie can take care of Max for the two months, Marvin will give him $100,000; money that Charlie desperately needs. Agreeing to the deal, and taking half the cash early, Charlie buys another robot, Noisy Boy, instead of paying off his debts.

Max, a video game enthusiast, and robot-boxing fanatic, is thrilled to see the new robot, Noisy Boy. However, the excitement of meeting his father hardly compares. Max, inheriting his father’s stubbornness, has a hard time forgiving his father for his absence in his life, but it’s quickly made up for when Charlie takes him to a robo-battle. Bizarrely and irresponsibly, Charlie brings Max into a shady club where Noisy Boy and another robot, Midas, duel it out. After yet another robot in the scrap pile, Charlie quickly brings Max to the junkyard in the pouring rain so they can salvage some parts to build a new robot.

After Max discovers a second-generation robot buried in the mud, he single handedly digs it out and repairs it with parts from Charlie’s old bots. Atoms, the outdated and barely functional, robot will soon become a robot-boxing champion with the help of Charlie and an old friend, Bailey (Evangeline Lilly). The quality of the robots’ designs is above average, with interesting mechanics and beautiful paint jobs. The CGI of these Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em robots is astonishing, with diverse fighting tactics, yet the words “Left punch! Duck! Uppercut!” seem to stick with the viewer throughout the movie during the battles of the bots. Although semi-futuristic, the set is still very modern and doesn’t look like it takes place on the Enterprise. However, the portable computers are pretty awesome, and with our new technology, it looks like these plasma touch screens are a possibility for the future. Another cool feature of the special effects and the plot is Atom’s ability to mirror its trainer. A scene between Jackman and Atom take place where he is mimicking Jackman’s boxing skills. Goyo and Atom also bond in the film when they do an interpretive dance as a pre-game show, making the crowds go wild for Atom.

During the final battle versus the undefeated Zeus, which Max had once admired, and Atom, father and son team up to take down the indestructible legend against all odds. ESPN narrates the battle, and as round three of five comes around the corner with Atom still hanging in there, and the announcer says, “This crowd came here getting a massacre, but instead they’re getting a war.” During round four, during a particularly rough match for Atom, his voice recognition function has been damaged. Seemingly impossible for a low-grade robot against first class Zeus, they make it to the final round, where Charlie saves the battle. He uses Atom’s outdated (but still highly useful) mirror function, roaming the sidelines of the arena and shadow boxes Zeus. Charlie lets Zeus attack him until his battery is drained, then strikes against him to win the match. However, the one-minute bell saved Zeus, leaving the judges to decide the victor. Despite Max and Charlie’s greatest efforts, the judges are in favor of Zeus, keeping his title of the unbeaten champion. Fortunately, Max isn’t upset about it, as moments after the battle, Atom is already being called “the People’s Champion”.

The fuzzy story of a father reunited with son, and a boy befriending a robot has certainly been done before, but “Real Steel” throws a curve to the movie with it’s combined attributes of appealing sets, intricate robot designs, and a gifted cast. The soundtrack and score (from the well-known Danny Elfman) is also very good; there are several fast paced hip-hop songs, and also some classics tossed in, and even some piano/violin duets to strengthen the emotional scenes. The plot could have been a little more creative, but it’s other high points make up for it. It’s nice to see Hugh Jackman on screen again (without the Wolverine claws) with other talented actors with him, including Kevin Durand and Hope Davis, proving to Hollywood that the Sci-Fi action genre has certainly not been overrun by romantic comedies and family dramas.