2011 seems to be the year for the underdogs. All of these films that look as if they are going to be washed-up, predictable, and extremely bad turn out to be the best-of-the-best when it comes to entertainment; while others, that look to be worth-your-while, have been turning out as surprising disappointments. Running at a little over two hours, Real Steel has a perfect amount of time to steal the audience's attention and provide them with a rousing theater experience.
By all means, Real Steel is far from being perfect. The first half of the film works hard to build interesting characters, a decent-enough storyline, and a couple of conflicts to go with everything. But, the last half of the film seems to fall apart drastically and it's never as exciting or well-done as the first half of the film. The first half of Real Steel is loads of fun and explosively entertaining. The action-sequences were very well-made and the whole underground fighting aspect was as intriguing as it was with the first Fast and the Furious movie. It's too bad the film looses that touch along the way, faster than I wasn't hoping for.
The development of the characters were all surprisingly good. Hugh Jackman gives a decent performance as Charlie; a washed-up broke desperate for a chance at the big-bucks again after loosing it all when boxing went heavy-metal. The character has accepted the change and certainly still has the passion for the new form of boxing, but just can't catch a break with any bot he finds. When giving the opportunity at one-hundred grand, he takes the chance immediately and only has to do one simple thing: watch the son he's never met for an entire summer. At first not bonding whatsoever, as the film progresses, you can see the similarities in both characters.
After loosing the one bot that could bring him back in the game, Charlie finds himself screwed with nothing when owing everything to just about everyone he knows. Drastically, this changes, when Charlie and his son find a spotter-robot that literally pulls off the impossible. It's a story of an underdog...well, underbot that is.
What would've been a really cool take to the film is showing Charlie's past as a boxer and how he reacted to the change in boxing from humans to machines. Imagine how better of a film this would have been if the film had done flashback sequences to how the world reacted to this change in such a famous sport and how boxer's adapted to the new way boxing was matched. You can all say over and over how idiotic the concept of Real Steel actually is, but the way technology is processing nowadays and how it's pretty much doing everything for us now, who says technology can't create a machine to play sports for us? Certainly this is the age of technology and we've only seen the beginning. Sports might just be played differently in the future. Whether it's played between us or robots is in question, but the movie doesn't take place in the future and unless you can predict it calling Real Steel a film with a stupid concept is stupid on your part.
The big reason I wanted the whole flashback sequence is because I felt the movie didn't explain itself well enough. I wanted to learn more on how boxing changed. The movie only mentions that humans wanted the bigger show, but that doesn't nearly explain who came up with the idea to design robots for boxing. Who designed the first boxing robot? What was the sport like when it first started? How was Charlie when the new boxing format began? Too many questions on this subject that one might not think of when watching this flick, but instead, one would rather know.
The performances in the movie are good for the most part, but not always. Some scenes between Charlie and his son, especially the dramatic ones, just were not performed that well. While Dakota Goyo, who plays the young kid Max, does a great job delivering the cute humor to the audience, there are the few scenes were his performance doesn't hold up that well. Same thing goes for Hugh Jackman, who does give a good performance overall, but it could have been a whole lot better based on were we've seen him before.
Evangeline Lilly, who we all remember (well, the fans!) as the beautiful Kate from what is my favorite series, "Lost", does a really good job here. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't nice to see her on the big-screen and that her performance wasn't good. Her performance as Charlie's good friend/love-interest was certainly nice to see and she was definitely a good call on the casting director's part. In all honesty, she gives a performance as good as Jackman's, if not better. Certainly, from this, I do hope to see her around a lot more often. She could definitely be something big in the movie-business. She has both the talent and looks.
As fun and exciting as the first half of the movie is, the film never really looses that touch completely, but once the film's tone changes from dark to a little lighter its not necessarily as good. The underground aspect of the film brought a big sense of thrill and excitement whereas the big leagues half of the film only brought predictability. However, Real Steel is just an October popcorn flick; it being somewhat predictable isn't all so bad. The first half of Real Steel is still much better though. Act II only contains action-sequences not as well-made and dialogue that doesn't live up to anything higher than worthy.
Real Steel flows quite well from start to finish. Never once did I look at my phone to check the time, even though the last half did drag just a bit. The fighting between the robots is a lot of fun but everything else going on in the atmosphere around all that, between the humans, just doesn't live up the greatest. The dialogue between the characters is cheesy all-round the entire flick. The movie does have a serious-tone to it, but never could I personally take anything seriously due to its lack in dialogue. The amount of cheese can sometimes provide a giggle or two, but the scenes that are supposed to be dramatic and realistic are instead hilarious and unreal. Then again, this is just a popcorn flick and asking too much of it would only take away the "popcorn-flick" term.
The one thing keeping Real Steel half a star better is its poor ending. The movie builds up so much for all of the characters and the movie ends off with you knowing absolutely nothing on what happens between them. The results from the final battle were a little ridiculous too and it was an unknown purpose to why the writers ended it off that way. Because of this ending, I walked out a little unsatisfied with Real Steel. What resurrected my excitement on the flick was discussing the action-sequences with a friend of mine on our way home.
Real Steel is just a fun action-flick. Certainly these robots don't go through epic battles like the Transformers did in Michael Bay's recent installment, but then again, you can't expect them to. These robots don't use guns, missiles, and jetpacks. They use their steel fists and fight their way to victory. Even though Real Steel contains a fresh, intriguing concept, the atmosphere of the humans around these destructive robots kills off a lot of positive remarks this movie could have grasped. Don't expect too much out of the film except for some fun action-sequences. If you plan on seeing it in theaters, pay the extra cash for the IMAX because it'll definitely bring out the destruction. If not willing to pay that, I'd wait for it to be available for rental.
Thanks for the read!
-Written by Corey Wood