“This ain’t no video game!”
Richard Matheson short story entitled “Steel”, first made into a Twilight Zone Television Episode and now gets a movie adaptation featuring Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lily and Dakota Goyo.
Real Steel’s advertising is interesting because half the trailers showed Jackman alone and the other half show him and his forgotten moppet of a son trying to do the Rocky with Robots schtick.
And, for the most part it works when the plot pits the father and son against the robot and their operators.
The rest of the plot is paint by numbers and will bore you to tears.
Hugh Jackman plays Charlie Kenton, an ex-boxer who now is the controller of Robot Boxer and has been eeking out an existence at carnivals using his robot against slightly smarter creatures like bulls. Unfortunately, Charlie is always looking for a sure thing and one thing leads to another and his current robot is trashed in a lovely display of mechanical man vs beast.
Until one day he mistakes two process servers as bill collectors. Turns out his ex-girlfriend had a kid, she’s dead and he needs to go to court to figure out what to do next.
Kenton takes his kid so long as he gets paid for it and in doing so sets up an ongoing cycle of get paid, move on, get paid, move on, don’t get paid, get robot smashed into bits, run, until one night his moppet finds a sparing bot in the junkyard and puts him back together.
Evangeline Lily plays Bailey, Kenton’s current squeeze and the owner of her father’s gym. She is not given much but plays the put upon girlfriend/wife part well enough not to be one note.
Jackman when not playing the ex-father looking for an angle is great to watch after the horribleness that was Wolverine.
The moppet, Max played by Dakota Goyo is thankfully nowhere near as bad as lill’ orphan Anakin and like father like son is just as bull headed.
The SFX and the robots are a welcome sight after three Transformers movies. They looks like and act like real robots and the SFX/practical effects make these one note characters just a hint of personality.
I enjoyed Levy’s first hit Night at the Smithsonian and I think it works better because there were better opponents involved. Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney and Bill Cobb provided much better story than the big ole bad opponent, Zeus (funny, his designs reminded me of Megatron a bit) and his Jobsian operator, Tak Mashido played by Karl Yune and his girl friday, Farra Lemkova played by Olga Fonda. Since there is no plotline of good tornado watchers vs bad tornado watchers, Tak feels oddly out of place since most of the other second tier characters did not feel so wooden.
For a two hour movie I was entertained even if the plot was paint by numbers.
Part of me wonders if you could age the characters enough to make Max an teenager/adult for sequel and open up the universe I enjoyed looking at since most of it was real instead of being models or green screen aka Lucas.