Real Steel is a fun movie that the whole family can enjoy. The mixture of practical and visual effects is fantastic and the story has a great heart behind it. Hugh Jackman once again delivers a fine performance and the young Dakota Goyo isn’t nearly as obnoxious as other child actors I’ve had to endure in movies over the years. No, this isn’t a great movie but it’s an amiable one with a satisfying finale.
Genre(s): Science Fiction, Drama, Suspense
Touchstone | PG13 – 127 min. – $39.99 | January 24, 2012
Directed by: Shawn Levy
Writer(s): Richard Matheson (short story); Dan Gilroy and Jeremy Leven (story), John Gatins (screenplay)
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Evangeline Lilly, Anthony Mackie, Kevin Durand
Theatrical Release Date: October 7, 2011
Features: Commentary, Featurettes, Deleted/Extended Scenes, Second Screen, Outtakes
Number of Discs: 2
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 7.1), French (DTS-HD HR 7.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.35
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Disc Size: 46.1 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Region(s): A, B, C
THE MOVIE – 3.75/5
Based on a short story by Richard Matheson, it’s not the first time Real Steel was adapted. The original story was used in a season 5 episode of “The Twilight Zone” simply entitled ‘Steel’ starring Lee Marvin. I haven’t seen the episode myself so I can’t compare but from what I did see of this feature film, I must admit that it’s not that bad.
Real Steel stars Hugh Jackman as Charlie Kenton, an ex-boxer who spends his days using robots to do the fighting and grab any money he can be it in legit fights or those underground. In the opening, he gets his ass handed to him in a bull vs. bot bout and desperately needs a new robot and finds a former world champ, Noisy Boy, that he can buy for $40k. Unfortunately for Charlie, he has no money. He resides at an old boxing training center run by the daughter of his old trainer, Bailey Tallet (EVANGELINE LILLY). Bailey is a tough young woman who is good at repairing robots and is an old flame of Charlie’s.
His world changes when his ex-girlfriend dies and, under Texas law, are entitled to custody of son Max (DAKOTA GOYO), whom he’s had limited communication with, to say the least. He goes to court to sign over his parental rights to ex-sister-in-law Debra (HOPE DAVIS) and her wealthy husband Marvin (JAMES REBHORN) but because the two would-be parents are conveniently taking a trip to Europe, Charlie makes a deal with Marvin to take the kid of the summer in return for $100k, half up front. Another convenient figure given Charlie needs the upfront payment to buy the robot.
So with this new robot in tow, after a few adjustments since it only spoke Japanese, he takes Max with him to an underground fight and despite his son’s protests to only take smaller payout bouts – the kid is big into robot fighting and is a bit of a tech genius, conveniently enough once again – Charlie instead takes on a bigger fighter for a much larger payday… and gets his ass handed to him once again, destroying a perfectly formidable ‘bot.
The loss, however, does not deter Charlie as he sets out to find spare parts at a recycling center to piece together a new robot and start making cash again. Max tags along and while they collect different parts, Max slips off the side of a cliff to a ledge below where the arm of an old ‘bot saves his fall. Max is insistent on taking this robot, named Atom, but Charlie wants none of it so Max unearths and somehow drags it out several miles back to their truck. How he manages to do this is beyond me, but I just went with it.
Because Atom was a sparing ‘bot – made to take hits but not deliver any – Charlie doesn’t have much use for it but Max, like his father, is stubborn and works to fix Atom up and use some parts from the other ‘bot to put in upgraded features like a voice controlled system where the user can command the robot with built-in moves, this is to go along with a shadow feature in which Atom mimics what the other person does.
Soon enough Charlie becomes a believer and with Max’s tenacity and belief gets Atom a fight in which the robot wins and begins a run that eventually leads to a national fighting tournament in the WRB (World Robot Boxing) garnering widespread support defeating bigger robots along the way. You can basically get where the movie is going from this point as its telegraphed early on that Atom would eventually battle the baddest of all the robots, Zeus, which was built by a genius Japanese man with all the high-tech gizmos at Zeus’ handlers’ hands. Think Rocky Balboa meets Transformers… but without the inane plotline for the latter.
Before anything else, I have to give kudos to the production design. It might not seem like much but I liked the fact that even though the film takes place in 2020, the production design team didn’t go overboard with a futuristic look and instead made it more realistic with a few items that made it just slightly different from today. Often whenever a film takes place in the future (even in the near future), they overload the set with items (and style for that matter) that is more distracting than anything else.
When it comes to the cast, once again Hugh Jackman shines. His character isn’t merely one-dimensional and instead is vastly flawed. He starts out as a complete asshole but as he begins to bond with his son, the layers begin to fall and while it’s not exactly subtle, Jackman seems to play just right. For his part, young Dakota Goyo thankfully doesn’t play the typical annoying brat kid that often gets on my nerves. Last is Evangeline Lilly starting her post “Lost” career. Her part has some meat behind it – since she doesn’t have a whole lot to do – but it’s more to expand on Jackman’s Charlie character than anything else. I supposed she fulfills the female romantic role well enough but it’s nothing special or noteworthy (but damn, she does look fine).
One of the high points for the film is the mixture of practical and visual effects. All of the fight scenes were done via motion capture and probably some other shots used CGI but rather than relying on the actors to act against a reflective ball and whatnot, instead they actually built some of the robots. It’s an impressive accomplishment and a bit of old school filmmaking, but it makes the film feel somehow more realistic.
I don’t think Real Steel is a great movie but it’s an amiable one. It’s a predictable film but still a crowd-pleaser with a nice, if not simple, ending. Directed with some heartwarming ambience by Shawn Levy, who previously helmed the much popular Night at the Museum and hit romantic comedy Day Night, this is a feel good movie that the entire family can enjoy. The action is well done and the practical/visual effects are top notch.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.75/5
This Blu-ray release comes in a standard case and a glossy, embossed slip cover.
Real Steel Second Screen – In the latest craze for Blu-ray is this feature where you have to go to a website and load an app either on your iPad or computer/Mac. When launched, it syncs with your Internet connected Blu-ray player and then while playing, on the computer shows some on-set photos/concept artwork/production notes and while playing in the Blu-ray player, we get commentary by Shawn Levy and some select featurettes and picture-in-picture footage. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
I don’t like this feature (in this form) for many reasons but the biggest one is: what happens if the app site (for those using a computer) goes away? It means this feature goes with it. Why not just put it on the damn disc in the first place?
Countdown to the Fight: The Charlie Kenton Story (13:51; HD) – This is a mock-featurette that profiles Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman’s character) as if he were real. It features interviews with the various actors playing their characters. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
Making of Metal Valley (14:14; HD) takes a look at putting together the set for the Metal Valley Recycling Center that plays an integral part to the movie. It’s actually a cool featurette as you get to take a look at the various aspects of shooting the sequence.
Building the Bots (5:38; HD) is a short but interesting featurette checking out the workshop where the real robots were being built. It’s explained the importance of using real robots for certain scenes to give a more real feel.
Sugar Ray Leonard: Cornerman’s Champ (6:19; HD) is a nice featurette where Leonard shows off his skills to the cast and crew as well as behind-the-scenes footage of the legendary boxer training Hugh Jackman for the role. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
Deleted & Extended Scenes (17:49; HD) – There’s not much here, though there are several involving a removed storyline involving Max’s mother. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
Bloopers (2:36; HD) contain your usual line flubs and other on-set antics.
There’s also a retail DVD Copy which also contains an Audio Commentary not available separately on the Blu-ray disc (it’s used within the Second Screen feature).
VIDEO – 4.5/5
Buena Vista releases Real Steel to Blu-ray with a great looking 1080p high-definition transfer. The video, presented in its original 2.35 widescreen aspect ratio, has a fine amount of grain that shows off a film-like quality. The color array is also well done with good dark levels intermeshed with bright colors, and well balanced skin tones, which pop off the screen very nicely.
AUDIO – 4.75/5
The disc comes with a boom-tastic 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track with good range from the quieter, more dialogue driven scenes to the numerous action/fight sequences which really show off the lossless audio. The front and rear channels are well balanced with no one speaker being overloaded while the center channel gets primarily used for dialogue or central action. The LFE track meanwhile also kicks on offering a bit of depth to the track.
OVERALL – 4.0/5
Overall, Real Steel is a fun movie that the whole family can enjoy. The mixture of practical and visual effects is fantastic and the story has a great heart behind it. Hugh Jackman once again delivers a fine performance and the young Dakota Goyo isn’t nearly as obnoxious as other child actors I’ve had to endure in movies over the years. No, this isn’t a great movie but it’s an amiable one with a satisfying finale.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.