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New on DVD: “Real Steel”

Peder Aalgaard | Staff Writer | 2-1-2012
Mix together an old Twilight Zone episode, Rocky, and Rock ‘em’ Sock ‘em’ Robots and the result should resemble Real Steel. Hugh Jackman takes on the roll of Charlie Kenton, a down-on-his-luck boxer that is behind the times. Keaton was a boxer during a time when humans would fight other humans, but in 2020 the crowd has demanded more violence and pushed humans to the sidelines. Now boxing matches are performed by remote controlled androids that can be beaten and destroyed to a greater extent than humans with no guilt towards the damage.
Charlie Kenton is a man with little sense of responsibility and many debts that he is avoiding. Because he has lost many robot fights and his debt is mounting, Kenton is forced to take on underground challenges and state fair shows. After his most recent failure, Kenton is informed about his ex-girlfriend’s death, which leaves him the legal guardian of his son, Max (Dakota Goyo). Kenton has not seen his son since Max was two, and the now eleven-year-old boy causes him trouble as the two of them clash about boxing.
Max is familiar with how the new robot games work while Charlie is still trying to adapt to the new game. However, Kenton still has firsthand experience with boxing and knows how the finer points of the sport work, even when he ignores them. When Max finds an outdated sparring robot named Atom in a junkyard, he becomes set on turning it into a great prize fighter. Kenton begins to bond with Max as the two of them train with Atom for the big leagues.
Real Steel has its good moments. The robots used in the movie are extremely well done. The special effects use both computer generated images, motion capture, full sized models, and animatronics. This allows for a much better performance from the actors and gives the audience a feel for what a nine-foot-tall boxing robot would be like in real life. The matches are also very well done, with choreograph advice from boxer Sugar Ray Leonard.
On the side of the story, the father-son-bonding story was not all that interesting. Jackman and Goyo worked well together, but did not have a very memorable performance. The boxing matches are also scattered through the movie, so while they are good, there is something of a lull when the story wants to show up.
Real Steel does not completely fail as a movie, but it does fail when it comes to blending action with story, and it does have its predictable moments. Also, a finer point would definitely be the fact that one of the robots is named Zeus, and not once does it have an entrance from a bolt of lightning. That is wasted opportunity.
Real Steel is worth taking a look at if you want a movie to play in the background, but does not really draw in any sort of excitement except during a few of the boxing matches. It is a good film but is simply shallower than expected. It is by no means a must-see.