So even though it was only 2 days before the official release, a few friends and I were lucky enough to attend a pre-screening of Spielberg’s latest film, Real Steel. With Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, and Evangeline Lilly, Real Steel is set in the near future where “to-the-death” robot combat has become the premier sport.
!SPOILERS! from here on.
Charlie Kenton (Jackman) is a retired boxer struggling to make a living fighting his robot wherever he can. With mounting debts, Kenton sees a possible solution when custody of his son Max (Goyo) reverts to him after the passing of his ex. Having never been a part of Max’s life, Charlie is willing to give up his rights to a family member in exchange for a sizable payday. The only catch: Max’ll have to spend the summer with his father.
From the very start, father and son are stricken by emotional friction and it’s almost funny how much their roles seem reversed, with Charlie acting the less mature of the two. After a particularly upsetting bought, Charlie hits rock bottom – digging for parts in a scrap yard. Max, who tags along, comes across a real find – Atom, an older model robot with minimal damage. Charlie, extremely skeptical, sets Max up for his first fight, an underground match in an abandoned zoo with an inbred-looking robot named Metro. When Max manages to pull out the win, Charlie is forced to recognize Atom’s potential, and training the robot begins to bring father and son together. Soon the pair are fighting in matches across the country, building a real reputation, and quickly garner the attention of the professional circuit. But can father, son, and junkyard Atom compete in the big show?
So my impression? Actually, I enjoyed myself. The script is decent, letting Jackman’s natural talents shine through (as much as they can in a PG-13 movie) while giving Goyo a mature yet realistic character. The plot, while pretty predictable (especially towards the end), is still compelling. The fights are exciting, which is to be expected considering Sugar Ray Leonard was a consultant on the film.
As for the robots? Well, Dreamworks really did a great job. Even if you aren’t a fan of mecha, it’s easy to see the individual personality shine in each bot. And if you are, then, like my friends and I, you’ll have a grand time noticing little homages to genre classics like Gundam (a statue outside a stadium), Big-O (the big-bad’s finishing move), and Neon Genesis Evangelion (Noisy Boy’s head looks just like Unit 01’s).
Honestly, my only hang up was with Dakota Goyo, and it wasn’t something he could help. The kid just resembles Star Wars: Phantom Menace‘s Jake Lloyd too much. Thankfully his acting ability is real enough to make up for it.
All told, this movie is a fun time and I can see it being a big family hit, especially among boys and young men.