I've been watching the previews for Real Steel for months and each time I saw a trailer my comment was, "not convinced".
My main worry was how there can be any emotional involvement in the movie if the robots aren't sentient? If they're just puppets ripping each other apart, why do I care?
I needn't have worried however, as Real Steel isn't really about the robots that's the MacGuffin (look it up); it's about an absentee father slowly building a relationship with his son through a shared love of robot boxing.
Australian's Hugh Jackman co-stars as Charlie Kenton, a washed-up former boxer in the year 2020, who has taken up "training" robot boxers to compete in underground no-holds-barred death matches. He's in debt up to his eyeballs to some fairly unscrupulous characters and is constantly on the move, trying to scrape together enough cash to get a robot and then put it in a fight.
Hugh Jackman stars as former boxer and failing robot boxing trainer Charlie Kenton.
Charlie's main enemy is himself. His hubris gets the better of him more than once and now he's on the verge of being thrown out of his robot "gym" by on-off girlfriend Bailey Tallet (Lost's Evangeline Lily) who is also owed a lot of money.
Into Charlie's downward spiral steps his son Max (Dakota Goyo). Charlie has never met 11-year-old Max but he's forced to take care of him when his mother (Charlie's former girlfriend) dies. They don't have much in common, in fact their relationship is downright prickly at the beginning but as with all these father/son/redemption films, they do love robot boxing and it's through this shared passion that they finally connect as father and son.
This film is really about the father and son dynamic between Charlie and Max; which in turn leads to Charlie's redemption as a father, in his career and as a boyfriend. It just has 15 foot tall fighting robots as the MacGuffin.
The fight scenes are very cool and the robots are beautifully rendered. It's obvious a lot of effort has been put into the effects. Not once did an effect pull me out of the film and make me think, "This is obviously CGI". In most scenes there's parts flying everywhere including heads and limbs of the robotic pugilists.
Action packed fight scenes keep the plot moving at a steady pace.
The three main characters all put in solid, three dimensional performances as people trying to make it in the world when life and their own actions have conspired against them. Each finds what they were looking for by the end of the film even if they didn't know they wanted it.
It feels like a family film for everyone over eight years of age even though it's rated M15 . The characters and relationships of everyone but Charlie, Max and Bailey are fairly simple and not too well drawn out which shouldn't faze too many kids. There are only two scary scenes in the film, one where Max tumbles off a cliff and second where some of those unscrupulous characters catch up with Charlie. The s-word is only uttered two or three times throughout the film. Where it gets this rating is from the robot violence, probably impacted more because they are quite anthropomorphic.
In all, I'm surprised to say I liked the hell out of this film. It's not for everyone, sensitive kids and the youngest might not enjoy it so much, but if you're old enough to watch and enjoy a film like The Mighty Ducks, which has more real world violence than this I'll say you'll get a kick out of Real Steel.
Dads, I'd recommend you take your sons to see this one.