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.

The Empire Big Screen Diaries – Day 3

Like the protagonist on an epic quest in a sword and sorcery film, I embarked on the final day of Empire Big Screen. First order of business was the Paramount Showcase. After a brief video animating the company’s biggest films, a series of trailers were shown. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol was followed by Paranormal Activity 3 and Like Crazy. After this, a featurette on Cowboys and Aliens was screened, introduced by Jon Favreau (on video). We also got to see a short clip of the Footloose remake, and the trailer for The Devil Inside (which was highly reminiscent of last year’s The Last Exorcism). Two clips of the Shrek spin-off Puss in Boots were then screened. Te footage was great; the film looks as if it will be very funny. To round things off, footage of The Adventures of Tin Tin was screened with a message from producer Peter Jackson and director Steven Spielberg. The clips looked good, but I always think humans in CG-animation look weird.

After a brief interlude, the Lionsgate Showcase began. After the trailer for A Dangerous Method was shown, we got to see footage from Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus. Set in the modern day but with the original Shakespearean dialogue, the film looks interesting if a little unusual. The showcase was rounded up by four trailers – 50/50, Abduction, Warrior and Conan the Barbarian.

Seizing the opportunity for a proper lunch break, we headed to Armadillo (again). My fish burger was nice, but I felt bad that we didn’t leave a proper tip. In fairness, it was all the change we had, but apologies to Armadillo staff.

The Disney Showcase was the final one of the weekend. Real Steel was first up, with director Shawn Levy on stage to talk about the film. He also gave away tickets to the premiere, but asked the most difficult question ever. Needless to say, I did not know the answer. Two clips were then screened; the film looks like fairly standard family fare. Andrew Stanton then introduced John Carter and footage from the film was screened. Finally, Steven Spielberg (by video) introduced some footage of his upcoming film War Horse. What struck me more than anything was that Spielberg seems to have some hand in directing or producing many of the films discussed this weekend. He may have even a hand producing this post. Human star of the film Jeremy Irvine then came on stage to discuss making War Horse.

After hanging out in the press room for a bit (Jeremy Irvine was being interviewed there, talent-spotters!), it was time for The Muppets! Director of The Muppets James Bobin and star Kermit the Frog were interviewed live via satelite. I was told that the Muppets were originally meant to appear in person. Maybe it is just as well this did not happen, as I may have got kicked out for running up on stage and hugging Kermit. The interview was a lot of fun, and the clip screened involved Kermit singing a song. It almost brought a tear to the eye…

After all that excitement, it was time for the Conan the Barbarian premiere. Jason Momoa was present to introduce the film, shown at the biggest screen at the O2 Cineworld. The film was pretty disappointing itself (review to follow).

After the very last visit to the press room, I went to the secret screening. Cineworld tried to rob me blind with their popcorn prices, after which I settled down to watch the film. Before it started, I asked the gentleman next to me if he knew what the film was (I did by this point). When he answered “Cowboys and Aliens” I was perplexed, and thought he was joking until he showed me his ticket. I was in the wrong screen. After cursing my stupidity, I ran next door and luckily the trailers were still on. I then settled down to watch The Debt, a very good thriller (review to follow). And that concluded Empire Big Screen; the film was good way to end a busy but exciting weekend.

Many thanks to Empire and Romley Davies for having me, plus all the lovely people who made the weekend so much fun (you know who you are!).