Touchstone Pictures // 2011 // 127 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // January 24th, 2012
It's the near future and giant robots have taken over for human boxers. Watching these massive machines pound on each other has become the premiere sporting event in America. For washed-up pugilist Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman, X-Men Origins: Wolverine), it's his means to a pathetic living.
As he bounces around the country, debt-ridden and miserable, he scrapes together robot fights to middling success. When his estranged son Max (Dakota Goyo) shows up at his doorstep, Charlie's life grows significantly more complicated. If there's anything that can heal a complex father/son relationship it's robots beating the living hell out of each other.
Call it Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots: The Movie if you want, but I'm telling you: Real Steel delivers. I fully admit I have a soft spot for watching gigantic robots punching each other in the mouth, evidenced by my pathetically positive reviews of Transformers, Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen, and Transformers: Dark Of The Moon. But trust me: this film is legit.
Oh yes, there are plenty of trademark sports movie moments. You have the underdog, the unstoppable champion, the shady fight promoters, a training montage, and a fight trajectory that generally mirrors Rocky. But for as predictable and formulaic as it can be, Real Steel compensates with a huge heart, a family-friendly DNA make-up, earnest performances, a kid that doesn't suck, and some terrific visual effects.
Let's take it one by one:
* Huge Heart -- Real Steel isn't swimming in irony or angling for potty humor like other giant fighting robot movies. This story embraces simple but effective emotional themes: redemption, healing, and the love of a father for his son. There's not a hipster servo to be found.
* Family-Friendly -- The perfect movie for a dad to take his son to (yes, mom and sis can go, too). It's perfectly engineered to appeal to any kid that loves watching awesome robot action and for a dad who can't handle another Ken Jeong dick joke.
* Earnest Performances -- Hats off to Hugh Jackman. He could have easily phoned in this role, but gives this character the business and ends up driving the whole film. Flawed, likable, and (when called upon) hugely effective with the emotional grist.
* Non-Sucky Kid -- When you have a smartass kid as a major character, you play with fire. Thankfully, Dakota Goyo never crosses the line into Jake Lloyd territory.
* Visual Effects -- Great CGI work here, with some practical bots tossed in to mix it up. Even better, the bouts are well-directed and fun to watch.
That's all I got. For the cynical among us, Real Steel could be scoffed at, but sometimes it's nice to see some genuineness out of Hollywood. Big robots punching other big robots. That's nice, too.
Terrific Blu-ray: a perfect 2.35:1/1080p HD transfer and a throttling 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. Extras include deleted scenes, a fictional segment on Charlie Kenton, an iPad app that streams additional content while you watch, and featurettes on Sugar Ray Leonard's help with the film, the building of the robots, and set design. A director's commentary is allegedly included, but I was only able to find it on the DVD version.
Get it! Junior will love you!
Review content copyright © 2012 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Touchstone Pictures
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 7.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS HD 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English, Descriptive)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 127 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Extended/Deleted Scenes
* Gag Reel
* iPad App
* DVD Copy
* Official Site