I was surprised by how much I enjoyed “Real Steel”. Take out the robot boxing subplot and you have a pretty heartwarming, father son story. That was not a complaint by the way, just an observation. The robot boxing was actually pretty entertaining as well.
Hugh Jackman plays Charlie, a gambling addict and former boxer who bets on robot death matches. You see, in the future, robots have taken the place of human boxers. Charlie has hit rock bottom after his robot is destroyed by a Bull at a carnival. He is left broke and in debt to some shady people. He is also dragged to court after learning that his ex-girlfriend has died. You see they had a son, Max, that Charlie has had nothing to do with since he was born.
Max is now living with his wealthy Aunt and Uncle. Charlie agrees to sign over his rights to Max for one hundred thousand dollars. His uncle agrees to this on the condition that Charlie takes Max for the summer while the couple are vacationing in Europe for three months.
You can probably guess how this is going to turn out. Charlie hopes to leave Max with his childhood friend played by Evangeline Lily, while he takes his new robot on the road. But as it turns out, Max is an avid fan of robot boxing and opts to join Charlie.
After another disastrous match Charlie is forced to break in to a junk yard to find parts and this is where they find Atom, a long forgotten, obsolete sparring bot named Atom. Long story short, they rebuild him together and he fights his way up the ladder until he gets a shot at the title.
What really brought me in to the story, besides the glorious sight of robots pounding each other in to scraps, was how much attention was actually paid to the characters and the relationships. Hugh Jackman plays his character pretty straight. When he shows up to court ready to sign over his rights you believe he could do just that. When him and the kid, played by Dakota Goyo, bond, it is believable.
In a time when special effects films are becoming more and more about ugly and expensive visuals, movies like “Real Steel” are needed. It is an old school blockbuster that puts its story and characters first. It is also a family film that doesn’t pander to little kids. It has intense moments and real dialogue but it is not too violent for people of all ages.