Saturday, November 19, 2011



Like Hugh Jackman’s ancient G2 robot, Atom, I barely went the distance with Real Steel. Because it’s a movie, I want to call it Reel Steel, which I guess is better than Real Steal. And there-in lies the problem, because Real Steel steals every boxing film cliché you can imagine making a film as cobbled together as its silent robot hero – a non-character who gets all the punishment and none of the glory.

Real Steel" is an action drama about a former boxer (Hugh Jackman) who, against all odds, gets one last shot at a comeback when he teams up with his estranged son (Dakota Goyo) to build and train the perfect contender for the new high-tech sport of robot boxing. Can anyone say The Champ? I knew you could . . . and to make things worse, Dakota Goyo is a dead ringer for Ricky Schroder.

The robot boxing matches, both underground and in the ring, are very serviceable bits of CGI animation, but the final bout between Atom and Zeus for the championship of all universes known and unknown, is simply a redo of the first Rocky vs. Apollo Creed fight – right down to the ending.

And, I’m sorry, I know it’s the obvious reference, but between the robots and their hand-held controllers, I couldn’t get the Rock-Em-Sock-Em Robots game I had as a kid out of my head.

The film flirts with the question of the robot Atom being self-aware, and could have been a terrific film if the writer and director had followed wherever that path led them. But, clearly, this was a movie designed to follow a winning formula, and sadly a much better film – perhaps a championship film – was lost in the process.

However, Real Steel gets the judges’ decision in the end. By the time the last metal punches were being thrown, the music was swelling, and Hugh Jackman was on the verge of redeeming himself, I was caught up in the clichés, as I am every time I see the same boxing formula – I can’t help myself, I love the underdog making a comeback – and, like Rocky before it, Real Steel goes the distance.

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