Film Review: Real Steel

Real Steel is predictable Disney fare that should prove to be enjoyable for fans of robot fighting. The film is not particularly original, but is likely to pull viewers along for a ride.

In the near future, Charlie Kenton is a struggling promoter trying to make money within the sport of robot boxing. As Charlie’s debts mount, he discovers he has a 11-year-old son. When Charlie and his son Max find a discarded robot, they decide to enter it in boxing competitions…

The narrative of Real Steel is about as predictable as they come. The film features a triumph against the odds story that focuses on the relationship between father and son. Charlie is not the typical loving father; the relationship between him and Max develops as the story progresses.

Nevertheless, the father-son dynamic is not handled as well as it could have been. The transformation of Charlie occurs too quickly, thus his original persona appears inauthentic. Moreover, Max’s aunt and uncle are really sidelined in a way that rings hollow. It seems as if the screenwriters have focused on the central theme at the expense of making the auxillary characters and strands cohesive.

The absent parent theme is in keeping with the Disney preoccupation. There is no doubt as to where the film is heading, as far as this strand is concerned. Notwithstanding, the robot boxing is an interesting twist; allowing action sequences without the real threat of violence to Max.

The fighting sequences are well directed by Shawn Levy. The robot effects are excellent, and help to make the action scenes engaging. The art direction in the fight venues is also great. The film is set in the near future, and there is a credibility to this. The clothes, style, locations and much of the technology are all recognisable. It is the advent of robot boxing that is the only thing that suggests futuristic advances.

Hugh Jackman is well suited to the role of Charlie. Jackman has this watchable quality that makes him likeable it most films. Dakota Goyo is fairly decent as Max, and quite low on the annoying child factor scale. Evangeline Lilly has a one-dimensional role as Bailey, while Anthony Mackie is underused as Finn.

Real Steel is a bit like Rocky with robots. Viewers who give the film a shot will most likely find it an entertaining diversion.

Film Review: The Adjustment Bureau

The trailer for The Adjustment Bureau makes the film look highly unappealing. It is actually a lot better than this, but not exactly “Bourne meets Inception” as one of the film’s posters boasts.

David Norris is a New York politician running for senate. Facing defeat on election night, David has a brief encounter with a beautiful young woman. Longing to see her again, chance throws them back together a short while later. Mysterious forces, however, are conspiring to keep them apart…

Based on the short story ‘Adjustment Team’ by Philip K. Dick, The Adjustment Bureau was adapted and directed by frequent Damon collaborator George Nolfi (screenwriter of Ocean’s Twelve among others). Nolfi goes beyond the necessary padding out of his source material, creating the central characters and the majority of the plot.

The Adjustment Bureau is ultimately letdown by a script that puts emphasis on the romantic angle rather than the more interesting science fiction elements. Although the film can be classified as a sci-fi thriller, the primary focus is on the love story between David and Elise. The Adjustment Bureau would have worked better as science fiction with a romantic subplot. It is the ideas proposed by this aspect of the story that are most interesting, rather than David and Elise’s relationship.

It is easy to draw parallels between The Adjustment Bureau and films such as Dark City, The Truman Show and even The Matrix. Nevertheless, the premise is still fascinating, if not entirely unique. It is a pity that the ideas proposed by The Adjustment Bureau are not explored further. Like The Matrix, Nolfi’s film depicts supernatural beings not as magical entities but as smartly dressed men. The language used in the film is suggests a corporation and a chairman, rather than a mythical higher power.

As David, Matt Damon is decent, as ever, in the type of role that he has become accustomed to. Emily Blunt is convincing as Elise, while Anthony Mackie is appropriately contemplative as struggling bureau man Harry. The Adjustment Bureau strives to create an environment as realistic as possible (initially at least), which includes appearances by well-known individuals such as Jon Stewart.

The Adjustment Bureau is visually sleek, with some of the shots featuring a limited palette of greys and blues. The effects are suitably unassuming, with power being given to an accessory rather than to overly supernatural objects or forces.

The Adjustment Bureau is an engaging watch, but one that is ultimately unsatisfying. The film fails to live up to its interesting premise with too much focus on the relationship and a lacklustre conclusion.