on January 28, 2012
What a great movie. Sure, the storyline is predictable, but the entertainment value is huge. The thing about this movie is that I could see the depicted robot fights, the computer technology, basically everything about it, as coming about in the normal course of our society. A wholly believable story, probably one of the easiest SF movies to watch in terms of suspending disbelief in quite some time -- and it's worth mentioning that this actually *is* science fiction in the classic sense; a little technology, all of it reasonable, around which wraps a good story. It's not a fantasy, as are many so-called SF stories today.
So here we have really great robots, some awesome robot fighting, a not-overly annoying kid, and scenes that are (obviously intentionally) reminiscent of big-arena sports today, all combined with some feel-good stuff in the classic sense.
It kind of looks like a kid's movie before you watch it; then when you watch it, there are adult-ish elements; at the end, I wondered who they thought they were marketing to? Perhaps that's why this didn't do all that well at the box office: the kid probably turned off the hard core SF types, the violence probably turned off legions of mommies and daddies, and the people who did go and enjoy it didn't make the case to others that it really wasn't a kid's movie or a movie that is all that violent in the living-things-getting-hurt sense of the word.
Well, whatever the case there may be, I say, forget anything anyone says and just sit down with the desire to be entertained. I think you'll find that entertainment is delivered as desired, and in spades.
They clearly set it up (very well) for a sequel, but it's unlikely we'll see one, again because of the box office performance. Too bad. I really, really liked it. I think you probably will too.
on October 11, 2011
Technically a Sci-Fi movie, this movie is really a story of a father redeeming his relationship with a son he never knew, and of the character change that occurs in the father throughout the movie. The story is very well told, drawing you into the characters experiences, and although my wife loathes Sci-Fi movies, she loved this movie and cried during some scenes. It's got a lot action in it as well and is fun to watch. I do not watch many movies twice, but I'll be buying this movie and we'll be enjoying it repeatedly. The robot they prepare together serves as a device for a David and Goliath storyline as well. Hard to believe when reading this, but you'll be cheering for the father and son and their robot as well.
Real Steel, directed by Shawn Levy, is one of the very few movies I've seen in recent years where the audience I was in actually broke into applause in various scenes. A masterfully done tale of underdogs - a boy and his dad and a discarded robot - going against the odds, it really does get you pumped up to that level. I got a bigger kick out of this movie than I have from any other this year. It really is that much fun to watch.
The germ idea for Real Steel comes from a 1956 short story by Richard Matheson that was made into a classic Twilight Zone episode, and the look is right out of the Transformers franchise, but the heart - and there's a lot of it in this film - comes in equal measure from two films one would ordinarily have never linked together: John Avildsen's boxing classic Rocky (1976) and Peter Bogdanovich's Depression-era con-man & kid road trip classic Paper Moon (1973).
The plot is set in the not so distant future of 2020, where human boxing has been completely displaced by robot boxing. Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman), a former boxer who now gets by "managing" a robot boxer named Ambush, is about as down on his luck as it gets. Deep in debt and barely able to keep Ambush functional, Charlie is reduced to working the fringes of the boxing circuit and even exhibiting Ambush in county fairs where he puts the robot up against things like wild bulls. Which turns out to be a really bad idea when Ambush ends up getting smashed to pieces by a bull that weighs almost three times what he had agreed to, leaving Charlie fleeing in his van afterwards to avoid the exhibition promoter (Kevin Durand) to whom he now owes twenty thousand dollars. In this opening scene, we learn two things that tell us why Charlie is in the straits he's in: (1) he frequently makes really bad decisions, especially when he's desperate, and (2) he lets himself get distracted instead of keeping his mind on what he's doing - a bad thing to have happen when your robot is fighting a two-and-a-half ton bull.
Shortly after this disaster, while wondering how he's going to be able to afford another robot, Charlie unexpectedly finds out that an old ex-girlfriend of his has died, leaving behind an eleven-year-old boy named Max (Dakota Goyo), a son Charlie hasn't seen since he was an infant. Thinking that it's just a matter of signing over custody to the boy's aunt Debra (Hope Davis) and her new husband Marvin (James Rebhorn), Charlie shows up at the courthouse, only to quickly realize that Marvin is rich and that the opportunity he's been needing has landed right in his lap. Abruptly seeming to change his mind about signing the boy over, Charlie privately talks Marvin into an agreement where he'll give up custody rights to the boy, but only for $100K. Not wild about adopting Max to begin with, Marvin grudgingly agrees, but only on the condition that Charlie keep the boy for the next three months so that the kid doesn't interfere with his plans for their summer vacation in Europe. Charlie, not wild about being saddled with a kid, reluctantly agrees, getting half the money up front, the other half to be handed over when he delivers the kid at the end of the summer. The deal done, Marvin departs with Debra, leaving Charlie face-to-face with Max for the first time. And clearly, neither of them are thrilled by this arrangement. Max is even less thrilled when he finds out that he's been "sold" to his aunt and uncle and angrily demands that Charlie give him half the money. Which Charlie can't because he's already spent most of it buying a replacement robot named Noisy Boy. Seem familiar? It's right out of Paper Moon, as are some other key moments in the film.)
Charlie takes Max to an old boxing gym that now serves largely as a repair shop for robot boxers, run by his friend Bailey Tallet (Evangeline Lily). The two of them have history together as Bailey's father was Max's trainer back in the days when Max was a boxer and the boxing gym was still a boxing gym. Bailey knows Max better than he knows himself, and she's the first one to recognize just how much Max and Charlie are alike. But the similarities quickly come out when Noisy Boy is delivered and Max stares at the robot with fanboy adoration, rattling off a string of fight statistics that even Charlie wasn't aware of. He also turns out to know the Japanese commands needed to operate Noisy Boy from all of the video games he's played.
Things finally seem to be looking up and Charlie gets an old fight promoting friend Finn (Anthony Mackie) to get Noisy Boy on the evening's fight card at the local arena. But once again, Charlie's hopes are dashed by bad decisions and not keeping his mind on what he's doing. Faced with once again having to try to come up with a robot but with no money to pay for one, Charlie takes Max along as he night-raids a junkyard looking for robot parts. As they wander through the place in the dark and the rain, Max falls off the edge of a pit and is barely saved when he's snagged on the exposed arm of a buried junked robot. Excited over having found an entire robot, Max insists on digging him out, which Charlie wants no part of. Hours later, when the sun is finally rising, we see a worn-out and thoroughly mud-bedraggled Max hauling the recovered robot back to the van where Charlie is waiting. Max just glares at his father for a moment, then starts hitting and kicking at him in a blind, exhausted and exasperated fury. The scene is absolutely priceless.
Back at the gym, Max sets about cleaning up the salvaged robot, an older-gen sparring `bot built to take massive punishment but not to deal it out. He discovers that the `bot is named Atom, and that Atom has a shadow mode where he copies the movements of whoever is operating him. Max, convinced that Atom can take on actual boxer robots and win, pesters Charlie until Charlie finally arranges for Atom to get a match in an unsanctioned off-the-grid makeshift outdoor arena. In spite of himself, Charlie gets caught up in Max's dogged determination and enthusiasm and the two begin working together. From there on, the film shifts into Rocky mode and its Charlie and Max and their underdog robot Atom going up against the odds.
The supporting cast is superb. Evangeline Lilly's Bailey is quite convincing as a woman who knows Charlie well enough to care about him but to be wary of him at the same time. The same holds true for Anthony Mackie's Finn, who lets Charlie talk him into match-ups that he knows are a bad bet but he can't prevent from happening. Kevin Durand's Ricky is affably ruthless as a "good ol' boy" promoter who gets Charlie in hock and then takes it out of his hide later. John Gatins (who wrote the screenplay) brings over-the-top trash-talk bravado to his pierced and mohawked Kingpin, the manager of the robot Atom is first put up against. And Karl Yune and Olga Fonda are pitch perfect as Tak Mashido and Farra Lemkova, the arrogant brains and ice-cold business savvy behind the reigning World Robot Boxing League champion, Zeus, the ultramodern engine of destruction that Max, Charlie and Atom must ultimately face.
And the robots themselves are impressive. Not mere CGI fabrications, twenty-six animatronic robots were created for the movie. A combination of CGI and the simul-cam motion capture technology developed for Avatar was used for the scenes where you see the robots moving independently or fighting in the ring. Each boxing robot has a distinctive look and feel tailored to suggest varying levels of sophistication and menace. Everything about Atom, on the other hand, symbolizes the underdog nature of Charlie and Max. Older generation, less sophisticated, more scarred and far less shiny, and a little smaller than most of the robots he's put up against, Atom also has soft blue-oval eyes that subtly suggest empathic connection. There's no sentience behind them, no artificial intelligence, but Atom nonetheless "sees" Max and Charlie, and in him they see themselves.
But the heavy lifting rests on the chemistry between Hugh Jackman's Charlie and Dakota Goyo's Max. Hugh Jackman's Charlie is spot on, a subtle portrayal of a man always reaching for the brass ring - and always tripping himself up before he can grab it. Jackman brings this out beautifully - you can see the desperate agony on his face each time when Charlie realizes the brass ring is slipping away from him yet again. But something nonetheless keeps Charlie going on, something inside him just won't let him quit, and Jackman brings out that side of him as well. Dakota Goyo's Max is a younger - and very possibly smarter - Charlie that life hasn't beaten down yet. He is that voice inside Charlie that won't let him give up. And in Max, Charlie finds himself all over again.
Highly, highly recommended.
on April 5, 2012
I didn't care much for what I saw in the trailers for this film, and let's be honest that it's kind of a weak title. That being said, I really enjoyed the movie. The special effects were impressive without being overdone and in your face, and the story line worked very well. I found myself caring about the characters a lot more than I initially thought I would. Jackman was excellent as always, and Evangeline Lilly...well, she was nice to look at anyway.
on January 4, 2012
Here's Real Steel in a nutshell. Remember that old board game called Rock Em' Sock 'Em Robots? Well now it's a movie. I mean the old game was just two robots fighting it out in a boxing ring. That's Real Steel. Rocky with hydraulic fluid. Your average underdog story. Add a love interest tired of her beau staying the underdog and a dysfunctional father/son relationship and you pretty much hit all the standard marks for an average plot line. I know that's what I thought when I was hearing about the movie. However when I saw the trailers something about it told me this was going to be a really fun movie to watch. Sure enough it was.
So Real Steel is essentially the same, tired old story told that has been spun in Hollywood over and over again, but with robots. Sounds mediocre, huh? Unoriginal plot points is actually the norm these days. Only Real Steel hits these marks with such gusto and polish that it really stands out in that rat race. It's not a masterpiece of script and story, mind you. But then again that's not the intent. This is a feel good, popcorn movie through and through. It's good to see one that at least takes its audience seriously enough to make a well thought out escape.
Lets start off with our main character Charlie (Hugh Jackman). To put it simply he is a jerk for better half of the movie. I mean the kind of jerk you just simply cannot like. Eventually the jerk gets a clue and starts to become the kind of guy you can't help but root for. This takes take a well written script and a talented actor to make the jerk and his eventual turnaround believable. You gotta give Jackman credit for his portrayal of Charlie. It's a character with a lot of heart, even when you hate him.
Next character of focus is Charlie's estranged son Max (Dakota Goyo). As kid actors go we have a winner. Enough teen indignant defiance to carry the family feuding and enough big eyed wonder of a child to carry the story. From there you have a very good ensemble of supporting actors. Again good, solid acting with very few boughs of melodrama (most of which just feels like it was needed).
Since this is a movie about fighting robots the "real" stars have to be just as good as the live actors. The robots in the film all come in a wide variety of designs and demeanor. More so the designs also give off a lot of character. The starring robot, Atom, has just enough characteristics to make him the likeable robot with stuff like rounded features on the face and glowing blue 'eyes'. It's not just with the look of the robot that keep you interested, which can range from junkyard mean to dark and polished shiny monsters, but also with other qualities like poise and stance, how they walk, even how they fight. The production used motion capture technology used in the movie Avatar and had boxing star Suger-Ray Leonard advise in the fight scenes. Again the results show a refinement in design and execution that makes the whole experience with the 'bot feel more real and organic.
The story flows with good pacing. It's not all fights all the time, and the off-time is worth watching. The underdog success story at first feels like it stays in the under part for a while, but then again that's part of the charm as you see just how much Charlie screws up his life. When we are full on in the big leagues is where all the previous stuff really pays off with the big exciting fight and all that feel-good emotions you would be used to by now on movies like this. The only segment in Real Steel that I have a gripe about is the middle when they start the transition from underdog to rising star. There simply isn't any significant robots fights in between. We don't really see Atom build up his reputation with any additional matches. This is a shame because the movie is really at its best showing these fights. You don't even get a decent fight montage. Still that's my only gripe for an otherwise very entertaining movie.
The Blu-Ray release will of course be in 1080p and have a DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio soundtrack. DVD will have Dolby Digital 2.0. Both the DVD and Blu-Ray are announced with a host of features with the Blu-Ray rounding out some nice extra features. Here are the list list of extras (* denotes Blu-Ray exclusive):
Audio Commentary With Director Shawn Levy*
Countdown to the Fight: The Charlie Kenton Story* - An ESPN-esque expose set right before Atom's big fight with the champ. It covers Charlie's boxing career with interviews with key characters in the film. It also talk about Atom from a sports commentator perspective. Pretty neat little featurette.
Sugar Ray Leonard: Cornerman's Champ* - Really cool featurette on Sugar Ray and his involvement with the movie. Hearing him talk in the interviews and hearing how the producers and actors take to his direction gives me a renewed level of respect for the boxing champ. Probably the most feel-good extra in the bunch.
Making of Metal Valley - Behind the scenes of the what it took to create the robot junk yard as well as the development of the biggest stunt in the movie in said junkyard.
Building the Bots - Interest, if short, making of documentary on the robots. Most of the 'bots were built as well as computer generated and there is a lot of talk about the virtues of using practical effects. Only problem is you don't see enough of the practical effects in action on this feature.
Deleted and extended scenes - One of each. There is a slightly extended scene with Charlie's first robot Ambush that has more stuff with the kids. I can see why they took most of the stuff out, but there is a second of footage here and there that would have done well to stay on the final cut. Next is not so much a deleted scene as a set of deleted or extended scenes that follow a particular story arc. Again I agree with the deletion, but I have to admit there was some nice scenes taken out (even if they did mess with the flow of the movie).
Bloopers and outtakes - Just as it sounds. A montage of mess-ups for you to enjoy. Not much in the way of belly busting funny, but if you like the behind the scenes camaraderie that you usually see in stuff like this it will satisfy.
Real Steel Second Screen: Ringside With Director Shawn Levy* - This is to access interactive content on your PC or iPad while simultaneously watching the movie. It's worthless if you do not have a device to sync to.
I am normally the type of person who shies away from "popcorn flicks" but this one is very well worth making the exception. It's fun and excitement for the whole family. If you ever liked underdog sports movies you gotta check this one out.
REAL STEEL is a clever movie in that it takes a video game concept (though the idea is from a short story by Richard Matheson interpreted by Jeremy Leven, Dan Gilroy and written for the screen by John Gatins), keeps intact the videogame lovers' approach to fantasy and action, and introduces some adult versions of acting out that make for a solid message.
At first the movie seems trite - a grown man, ex-boxer Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman, buff, surly and in fine acting condition) buys and sells and enters robots who perform in a circus style boxing arena where years earlier real men boxed. We soon discover that this is future-set story where robot boxing is a popular sport and centered on a struggling promoter (Jackman) who thinks he's found a champion in a discarded robot. During his hopeful rise to the top, he also discovers he has an 11-year-old son Max (Dakota Goyo), in the midst of a custody battle with Charlie's deceased wife's sister and husband (Hope Davis and James Rebhorn). Charlie, ever on the outlook to pay off his debts and find financing for buying new robots to train for boxing matches, makes a deal with the couple, and agrees to care for Max for a summer while the couple visit Europe. Max wants to know his father but on his terms. The two males are aided by the owner of Charlie's training gym - Bailey (Evangeline Lilly) - and it is her intervention that helps the two males join forces and become involved with a discarded robot, Atom, they make a champion by working together.
The tenderness of the film takes a while to settle in, but in the end it is not easy to deny that the story of a reluctant father and a self sufficient son finding that arm platform of relationship, able to endure disappointments as well as triumphs. Jackman and Goyo are a terrific team and the other cast members, especially Lilly and Anthony Mackie, are solid. Shawn Levy's direction deserves credit for pulling the whole thing together. This is not just another silly CGI flick: there is a core a beauty to the film that makes it not only entertaining but heartwarming, too. Grady Harp, January 12
on February 2, 2014
I'm a fairly young guy, with no kids, and caught bit and pieces of this on FX, and decided to rent it. I'm glad I did. What a great movie. The special effects were fantastic, not over done in my opinion. A lot of the film had a very "used/worn" appearance, which made it feel more real. The story was well thought out, and executed. The fighting style with the robots were spot on.
Not too sappy!
I'll watch again, that's for sure. Hugh Jackman is a great actor, and the kid in this movie was a great with the interactions with Hugh, you could feel the tension between the smart ass kid, and the short tempered father.
I think you'll like it :)
"We all wanted to make the kind of movie that we loved when we were young, the kind fo get-out-of-your-seat, cheer-for-the-underdog kind of movie that was going to be visually cool, but would be tonally different than you expect a robot movie to be -- a tone that may be closer to WALL-E or Iron Giant than it is to Transformers or Terminator."
Real Steel director Shawn Levy says this on the audio commentary (THANK YOU!) on both the Blu-ray and DVD of the movie, which had a big opening weekend in theaters and also on home video sales and rentals.
Indeed, Real Steel is very much like Iron Giant in spirit, and also like a very high tech Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots. It's also an update of films like The Champ, in which a child helps a former achiever to reach again for the top, as a success and as a person.
As Levy also remarks in the commentary, the choice of likable star Hugh Jackman for a role that is unlikable for a good portion of the film is a major reason for how well it succeeds. Perhaps by design, Jackman never really comes across as a believable jerk, though he is very earnest and real in the role (despite his occasional tangles between his Australian accent with a "street tough" American dialect). He's ably supported by Dakota Goyo as his estranged young son (a performance that could make or break the film, but it this case "makes" it) and Evangeline Lilly, whose relatively small role radiates immense charm and appeal.
The robots and the spectacular effects are stars, of course, in this type of film, but Levy is careful to keep the real and the steel in balance. Visually, the filmmakers achieved what he calls a "retro modern" look in that takes place a few fictitious years from now. In order to make the robots more relatable to the actors, a combination of CG and full-size robots were created.
Levy also makes great use of the Michigan locations -- very stark and Blade Runner-ish without augmentation, thanks to the highly industrial look of gigantic assembly plants and scrapyards. In an early fight sequence, hundreds of extras are seen throughout a sprawling structure that was not a special comp effect, but a real place where large automobile parts where shipped in by train.
Real Steel isn't designed to be confused with The Artist. It's a popcorn cruncher that succeeds on its own terms.
on January 2, 2014
Movie was better than expected. Some action, some emotion, some silly parts that left you shaking your head. But, I watched it with my 10-year old son. My wife and daughter went out and we had the house to ourselves so we ordered a pizza and sat in front of the TV drinking soda, eating pizza and watching this.
As a movie, not bad at all. As a father-son movie, really quiet good.
on January 8, 2014
I went to see this at the theater and I've watched it on television. I decided to buy it for my own because there is just that something that is worth watching about it. I love the precision of movement from the robots. So much more fluidity compared to most robotic type films...but then again, these robots are athletes who need to be loose and humanistic in the boxing ring. I love this movie for the characters and the format of the story. Great original concept of sorts.