A former boxer and dead beat dad is forced to spend time with his son as he travels with fighting robots in the not so distant future in Real Steel. Lacking any real substance, but still sort of pretty and tasty, Real Steel is cinematic cotton candy.
When people want more carnage than human boxers can provide, robot boxing becomes all the rage. When eleven year old Max Kenton’s (Dakota Goyo) mother passes away, his future is uncertain. He ends up on his father Charlie’s (Hugh Jackman) robot boxing truck driving around the country, entering robots in underground matches to earn a few bucks. They accidentally come across a robot that changes everything for them – Atom.
If you have never had cotton candy before, you might think you are going to get a mouthful of amazing, beautiful, intoxicating smelling, pink cloud but when you put it in your mouth – it all melts away. It isn’t unpleasant, it is just a deceptively simple treat. That is the way Real Steel feels to the audience. You want to sink your teeth into it, but it dissolves into a puddle of flavorful liquid but offers nothing to fill your stomach and no complexity.
Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, and Evageline Lilly (who plays Charlie’s landlord) all put in perfectly adequate performances. There was a bit of overacting, but I think that was due more to the writing and what it called for, rather than the quality of the acting. In fact, the major problem with Real Steel is the writing.
Real Steel simply lacks soul and depth. Due to my not so glorious upbringing, it is easy for me to relate to any character or plot that deal with the abandonment of a child, dead beat parents, or parents coming back. Given just a drop of emotion, I can start to bawl. This movie is entirely about abandonment, dead beat parents, and parents coming back, but even I felt distant. There was just nothing there. I kept chomping, but it just kept melting.
It felt more like a synopsis of a story than an entire story; the Cliff’s Notes version. Everything in the story happens so quickly that there is no time to develop emotional connections, no subtleties, no time to be angry, nothing. Just spun air.
Where Real Steel does not disappoint is in the visuals departments. Besides having the best use of sweat pants in the history of film (thank you mama and papa Jackman), the robots are pretty awesome. For the first half of the movie, I examined the edges of robots, looking for the edges or trying to see the shadowing issues. There are a few places where the visuals are not perfect, but for the most part, I was totally fooled. I am pretty sure the director used models and other non-computer generated props when possible – which is always a good decision as far as viewers experience. If it was all computer generated, I may just have a kiss for the animators.
Real Steel was some good, old fashioned, fun. Nothing special, nothing awful; just a fluffy pink treat.
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