By Maryann O’Connor
Every childhood should contain some sort of hero worship. This family friendly boxing film takes a look at the need for heroes, metal or otherwise.
Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman), a former boxer, is trying and failing to work the robot boxing circuit (in the future there are no human boxers, just robots) when he finds himself in charge of his 11 year old kid Max (Dakota Goyo) for the summer.
Charlie, being the stereotypical all-round unreliable person, struggles to do the right thing in work and life, just ask his on-off girlfriend and sort of business partner Bailey Tallet (Evangeline Lilly) and doesn’t know what to do with his kid. Max fortunately knows lots more about what he wants to do and insists he’s gonna help daddy with the fancy robot boxing bouts for the summer.
While searching for parts illegally in the local junk yard/convenient robot assembly line, the until-recently-estranged father and son duo uncover a really old robot: Atom, an early model of the fancy boxing robots. It turns out that after the mud is washed off, his battery works fine and he is a fully functional boxing and shadowing robot. The kind that takes lots of licks but still keeps on ticking… Charlie doesn’t want to take a risk on the old robot but Max insists.
After a slow start, the film really gets going once Charlie and young Max start taking Atom to fights. The relationship between them is a great thing – awkward at first but then as they get to know each other a mutual respect begins to grow. It’s the kind of relationship every kid hopes they’ll have with their father. Especially when the father realises it is he who is his kid’s hero even though he thought he’d messed it all up (which you wish happened just a bit more often in real life).
Hugh Jackman is really good at providing depth in seemingly simple characters and Dakota Goyo is very promising: gutsy and intelligent, not in the usual tradition of annoying child characters. Evangeline Lilly is a bit of a weak link but clearly that was intended. Her role was just to be Hugh’s cheerleader, having faith, waiting around for him to get it together.
The soundtrack is a great accompaniment to the heavy-metal boxing and robot dancing. It’s worth seeing this film just for the robot dancing. The fight scenes are exciting and you get to participate fully in the jabs and uppercuts without seeing blood drops flying all over the place. Director Shawn Levy wasn’t exactly covering exciting new ground with Real Steel but this is good filler for his CV.
Real Steel has all the ingredients for a very enjoyable cinema visit: humour, very boo-able baddies, a struggle to survive and success against all odds.
Everyone loves an underdog and in this film you get three for the price of one.