Real Steel (2011)

DailyView: Day 80, Movie 137

Back in 2011, I chose to not go to Real Steel because it just seemed like a rip off of the old Rock’em Sock’em Robots toys of my youth. I was not interested. There were enough bad toy-related movies available, and more to come (Battleship, anyone?). So I skipped it.

I had added it to the DailyView watch list mainly after a Fatman Beyond podcast where Kevin Smith had said that he loved the movie. He also commented on the Rock’em Sock’em Robots link, but he said that there was a really strong connection in the story with Hugh Jackman and his son. He was right on both counts.

In Real Steel, Hugh Jackman played Charlie Kenton, a struggling ex-boxer who has taken up the robot fights to try and earn money. Charlie was not having any success and he owed money to many people, including his old mentor’s daughter Bailey (Evangeline Lilly).

As his luck continued to spiral out of control, he was given news that his ex-wife had died and that her sister Debra (Hope Davis) was looking to win custody of Charlie’s son Max (Dakota Goyo). Making a deal with Debra’s wealthy husband, Charlie would be paid off and would keep Max for the summer, while Debra was in Europe.

Max, unhappy at being dumped with the father that deserted him, started to pick up the robot fighting and helped out his father. On a raid of a junkyard, Max found a smaller robot, mostly in tact, that was an old sparring bot. Max made a connection with the robot, named Atom, and wanted Charlie to get Atom a fight.

Sure the movie is pretty predictable and follows those old boxing movie tropes consistently, but there is a charm and a heart-warming feel of Real Steel. Max is cute as can be and his training of Atom to dance is a highlight of the film, even winning over Charlie.

Despite the robots everywhere, this movie works because of the relationship between Charlie and Max. They had a terrible start, but Charlie’s path from trying to sell off Max to being a real father to him is very real and feels natural.

The robots are cool, and the CGI with them are awesome. You find yourself really rooting for Atom as he battles each fight, as they get more and more difficult. And yes, the fight fight with the overpowered Zeus is cliché, but it is surprisingly emotional too.

Anthony Mackie is in Real Steel as well, as a fast talking promoter, showing off Mackie’s skill at talking. He was a minor part of the movie, but he stole the scene every time he was on screen.

This is way more enjoyable than any Rock’em Sock’em Robots game might be.

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