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.