Real Steel is one of those movies that comes out and you just say “Really Hollywood? Wolverine is going to train a robot boxer?”. Then you dismiss it as typical Hollywood garbage and go about your day. Unless you happen to write for a nerdy website and need to do a movie review and feel like tearing something apart because, well, let’s be honest, bad reviews are fun. That was my mindset going into Real Steel. Something strange happened though, I got completely caught off guard and was ENJOYING IT. You heard me, Real Steel is worth watching. The movie is more about a man becoming a father, more than about robot boxing. The movie is based on Richard Matheson’s (I Am Legend,Stir of Echoes,What Dreams May Come) 1956 short story Steel, and was also made into a Twilight Zone episode[Netflix Link] in 1964, and is Executive Produced by Steven Spielberg.
Hugh Jackman stars as Charlie Kenton, a former boxer who in his day went up against the number 2 contender in the world. Eventually the people wanted more spectacle and more violence, and the human body just couldn’t take it, so the sport of Robot Boxing was started. Charlie then became a robot boxing controller and hasn’t had the best luck with it. In the opening 10 minutes we see his robot get taken out by a rampaging bull, and it really just goes downhill for there for him. He is soon reunited with his son, Max, who’s mother has just died. Making a deal with the boy’s aunt who wants custody, he gets the money to buy a new robot fighter along with Max for the Summer. What follows is a pretty touching story of a father and son getting to know each other for the first time. Charlie buys former robot boxing champion contender Noisy Boy on the black market and takes him out for a match the same night.
Charlie gets a little over confident and gets Noisy Boy scrapped in his one fight. On the way home from the match Charlie and Max stop by a junkyard to scavenge parts to build a new machine. While looking for parts Max falls down a ledge and is saved when his jacket gets snagged on the outstretched hand of an old robot that is buried in the muck. Max wants to dig him out and take him home but Charlie refuses, telling him that if he wants it he can get it himself. He’s not the best parent at this point, we know. He’s all but ignoring the poor kid. To be fair though, Max is pretty freaking annoying at the beginning. Max digs up the old robot and gets him onto the cart and back to the truck. After getting him powered back up they find out he’s an old sparring bot named Atom, with a shadow function. Designed to help the older boxing robots learn and practice. Max pleads to get Atom a real match, even though Charlie tells Max that he’s just going to get destroyed. What follows is an underdog story very, very similar to Rocky. Not nearly enough montage’s though. Max turns out to be a pretty good mechanic himself and reworks Noisy Boy’s voice activation into Atom and gets Charlie to train him. Atom, with his ability to take a ton of damage, along with Charlie’s boxer instincts quickly raises through the underground boxing league and finally gets a shot at Twin Cities in the World Robot Boxing league.
With the battle with Twin Cities we get a look at the big leagues of World Robot Boxing and Zeus, the current world champion. Zeus is a completely autonomous robot, who’s programming constantly updates during fights to be able to take on anyone. The owner, Farra Lemkova, a sexy high class lady with a hot accent offers Charlie $200,000 for Atom. Max tells her that he’s not for sale and realizes there must be a reason why she wants him. After the battle with Twin Cities Max grabs the mic from the announcer and challenges Zeus for the title. The crowd goes nuts.
That’s all of the synopsis you get. What follows after that really hit home for me and made up my mind on the movie. The relationship that grows between Charlie and Max is well written and kind of cheesy but as a dad it just melted my usually cold, dead heart. A single line said by Max in anger makes the whole movie worthwhile. “I just wanted you to fight for me.” It says so much, on so many levels. Oh there’s also an epic five round match between Zeus and Atom. There’s a subplot of another ex boxer that Charlie owes money too seeking revenge, as well as the love interest with his mechanic and childhood friend Bailey, played by Evangeline Lilly. I can’t recommend this movie enough. I’m glad I watched it with my two year old son, who also loved it. Giant robots fighting? He’s in. So if you’re into robots, boxing, or just well written dramas, give it a shot. There’s some pretty annoying product placement of Dr. Pepper and HP that really stands out, but hey, movies gotta get made right?