What do you get when you take a down and out boxer, a son meeting his dad for the first time, some rock’em sock’em robots and a little Osamu Tezuka for flavor. You get Real Steel. A nice big screen boy movie full of toys and fighting and CG all over the place but at it’s heart is it’s a movie about a father connecting with the son he never knew and didn’t know he wanted to know.
Real Steel begins with meeting Charlie Kenton, a former boxer and current down on his luck robot fight promoter who loses his fighting robot in a bad bet with a former boxing opponent. After which he learns that his ex â€“wife has died leaving him custody of the son he hasn’t seen since he was a baby. His ex sister in law wants full custody and Charlie works out something so that he and his son, Max spend time together for the summer. During that Charlie gets a new robot and also losing it in quick succession because of his bad fight choices. While scavenging for parts Max falls down over a cliff in a junkyard but is saved by the arm of turned off thrown away sparring robot, named Atom. Max forces Charlie to help him get Atom into matches and Atom continues to surprise everyone with his successes in the ring.
What really holds this movie together is the chemistry between Jackman and Dakota Goyo who plays Max. Nothing between them seemed forced and Goyo always seemed to be having a great time on screen. Hugh Jackman works great as this down on his luck guy that is sleazy yet totally likable all the time. Evangeline Lily plays a Bailey Tallet, a gym owner/robot mechanic. She really doesn’t have much to do other than be a Jimmney Cricket for the Charlie character and to tell Max the back-story of his father as a professional Boxer.
The overall story of the movie is an amalgamation of an almost every big boxing moment you’ve seen on film. You like Rocky. It has some of that. Cinderella Man. Some of that too. Ali vs. Foreman. Yep this is even has robo rope a dope. This movie also a little more subtly has a reference to Japanese manga and anime. The robot they find they call Atom, a reference to Tetsuwan Atomu a.k.a Astro Boy. A one of the most famous Astro Boy stories is the World’s Strongest Robot where big strong super robot defeats all the other powerful robots and Atom has to face him. Another influence is Gigantor or any manga/anime where a young boy controls a pretty smart and special robot to fight other robots.
Even though the story is paint by numbers and there really isn’t anything new being done in this it is still pretty enjoyable. Kids should love this film since even though it could’ve use more robot fights they don’t spend too much time on the cheesy character moments. In the end not an uppercut but a decent right hook.
FINAL GRADE: C +
Originally published on Reel Film News