SMH – Infinite Ammo Meta-Reviews “Real Steel” Before We’ve Actually Seen It
Real Steel is a science fiction movie starring Hugh Jackman. As an admirer of both Hugh Jackman and anything robot, I couldn’t wait to see it. More to the point, I couldn’t wait to write about it. Although this critique is lacking a bit in that I haven’t actually seen the movie, I have seen a lot of movies in the past, and based on that I went ahead and wrote this review. I’ve used both past and present tense so that, you know, when I do see it, I only need to do a minimum bit of editing. Because it’s more time efficient. And I’m lazy. Here goes.
Real Steel takes place in the near future. Much is the same, except that robots have replaced humans in many elements of life. I don’t know which areas, but one of them is boxing. Hugh Jackman stars as… some guy… who was a boxer. And his career has hit the skids, I guess, judging by the fact that he has a five o’clock shadow and looks dour in all the previews. Down on his luck, he finds a second shot at greatness when he decides to enter into the robot boxing game.
In this movie, Hugh Jackman has a son. In the beginning of the movie the son will really resent him, and ignore his Dad. But eventually they bond over boxing robots, and, after a rocky beginning, learn to love each other, then take their relationship over the top when Hugh Jackman becomes quite the warrior. You could even call him the champ. Even though they have nothing in common. Like father, like son. Rocky 5… Forget it.
Evangeline Lily is in this movie as well. She has very long legs, and she was in Lost. There is / will be a scene where she tries very hard to look like she’s trying to cry. She does this by scrunching up her face really really hard. The reason she does this is . . .
A) Hugh Jackman spends too much time with the robot and begins to ignore her.
B) Hugh Jackman can’t let go of his past, he used to be a champ, dammit!
C) Hugh Jackman could die from robot boxing (somehow), but he can’t give up, dammit!
D) Evangeline Lily wants to prove she’s a serious actress, and that means crying, dammit!
I really liked the robot training montage, with the inspirational music in the background. And I liked how Hugh Jackman initially didn’t like the robot, but grew emotionally attached to it as the movie went on.
I also liked how the drama built up. At first, it looks like the robot isn’t going to be any good against the bigger, newer boxing robots. But it learns the secrets of boxing, and starts to win and gain in popularity. Eventually, he becomes so good that he gets into the big robot boxing championship at about seventy minutes into the movie.
I thought the good guy robot wasn’t going to win the championship. He looked really outmatched against the main robot. Now I don’t want to give away anything here . . .
. . . but just when the good robot looks like he can’t win, Hugh Jackman gives an inspiration speech, and the robot digs deep down into his circuits and finds a way to win!
As originally conceived, Real Steel took place in a dystopyian future, because… you know… they want to use science fiction as a tool to comment on the present, with our ever increasing dependence on technology, the dehumanization of popular culture, and our increasing fascination with increasingly excessive levels of violence. But director Shawn Levy decided to have the film set on fairgrounds in homey Americana, evoking settings, giving a nostalgic feel, because… because… okay, I actually have no idea why they did this. Because boxing robots remind us of the good old days?
Hugh Jackman will give / gave his usual best. Of all the A-list actors, Jackman is consistently believable and likeable. A former stage performer, who received raves for his performance in The Boy From Oz, Jackman has the most elusive yet important element of any great matinee idol, which is undeniable charisma. His performance is what gives Real Steel a center of gravity. A heart to the Tin Man, if you will. Despite all the borderline ludicrous events surrounding him, his character remains sympathetic. Unfortunately, the same can not / will not be said about the rest of the film.
The robots looked / will look great. Advances in CGI have made it easier for people to create realistic dinosaurs and robots and monsters on film. Unfortunately, it’s also made it easier for second rate films to pull off special effects best left to better movies. That’s not to say that Real Steel will be / is bad. It simply can’t get past the premise. Why should we care about robots beating each other up? Boxing gets much of its drama from the fact that athletes are putting themselves at risk, and this is gone when the athletes are machines.
Maybe a gifted filmmaker could have found something unique to mine out of this story. Like a Stanley Kubrick or Darren Aronofsky. Unfortunately, the director here is Shawn Levy, who directed Night at the Museum and Just Married, as well as the remake of The Pink Panther, where he managed to make Steve Martin unfunny. He’s the master at taking an odd concept and doing absolutely nothing with it. You have robots. Boxing each other. That’s it.
If the filmmakers had gone for all out camp, this might qualify as a b-movie classic. Or if they decided to do a straight up sci-fi action movie, Real Steel would be entertaining. Unfortunately, the attempts to combine both a science fiction parable with an inspiring sports story with a gritty drama means that all three elements get lost in a mire of confusion. Not quite a cult movie or a guilty pleasure, Real Steel is passable entertainment but probably not worth your time.
But I’m still probably going to see it.