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Film Review: Real Steel

Oct 09, 2011 12:05PM ● Published by Wendy Sipple

Charlie, played by Hugh Jackman, is a down-on-his-luck former boxer. After his sport has been taken over by machines, Charlie now owns robots trained to fight. In debt and having his robots ripped to pieces, Charlie becomes the legal guardian of his 11 year-old son whom he has never met. The two butt heads but find common ground when they find a small abandoned robot that, together, they fix up and train to fight. In a futuristic underdog story set in 2020, their robot, Atom, rises to the top of the robot boxing ranks, and brings the father and son together along the way.

Real Steel is one heck of an entertaining family movie. It is slyly genius in how it went about delivering its story -- in such a way that was accessible to almost everyone. The violence is mainly limited to between robots, so it is not disturbing or bloody, but the film makers do an excellent job inserting a human element to the robots without having them talk or become cartoonish.

The robot designs themselves are expertly crafted. They look cool, but they are also not over complicated. Unlike the Transformer series where the robots are so complicated that it is hard to figure out what you’re looking at, these robots actually look like people and are easy to tell apart. I like that, for the most part, the robots are just robots -- they operate by remotes, they don’t act or think independently. It keeps the movie simple, which is one of the greatest strengths of Real Steel.

There are enough subplots that it would be easy to get distracted, but to Real Steel’s credit, it doesn’t. The main plot is streamlined, and it doesn’t dwell too long on the many subplots. Instead the pace of the movie is fast and always moves forward. It also doesn’t bother to slow down and over explain itself. The movie smartly sets itself up through action instead of dialog (something a lot of movies don’t do well).

Shawn Levy, who directed Night at the Museum and Date Night, confidently guides the audience in a fully realized world. The relationships between all the characters are clearly defined and easy to understand. The fight sequences are exciting and fun to watch. The movie has almost no wasted moments, and it ends with that same efficiency. It’s easy to see why so many are calling this a throwback to '80s family action movies. It fits well in that genre.

Hugh Jackman is quite good as Charlie. Dakota Goyo is acceptable as Charlie’s son Max. Although I wouldn’t say Goyo is bad in the part, but I can’t help thinking they could have found a stronger young actor to play the part. Over recent years there seems to be a huge surge in the quality of pre-teen actors, and Dakota Goyo is not among them.

It is hard to escape the feeling that everyone involved has a joy for the material. There is energy and enthusiasm present in Real Steel that is hard to find in movies, especially huge, expensive studio films. I applaud the success of this movie. As far as family entertainment, I think this movie will be a crowd pleaser. Even though it's true that the story could be deeper, sometimes it is all right to just sit through a movie and have fun; which is the perfect one word review for Real Steel... “fun!”

Films like Real Steel – Iron Giant, Rocky 3 and Terminator 2


Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.

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