Director: Shawn Levy
Writers: John Gatins, Dan Gilroy, Jeremy Leven
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Evangeline Lily, Anthony Mackie, Kevin Durand, Hope Davis, James Rebhorn, Karl Yune, Marco Ruggeri, John Gatins, Olga Fonda
Synopsis: Set in the near future, where robot boxing is a top sport, a struggling promoter feels he's found a champion in a discarded robot. During his hopeful rise to the top, he discovers he has an 11-year-old son who wants to know his father.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some violence, intense action and brief language
Show Me What You Got By Powerman 2000
"Rock-em Sock-em Robots: The Movie" or "Robo Rocky?"
Whether you love or hate Hugh Jackman as an actor, most of his films tend to be "hit or miss" a lot of times. Granted, the films he stars in that are bad aren't stinkers because of him, as a lot of that has to do with bad screenwriting, editing issues and/or poor directing. However, in every film that he's starred in, he's always managed to put up a fairly decent performance, and sometimes better if the script is up to par. However, for every "X-Men", "Fountain" or "Prestige" film...he makes movies like "Kate and Leopold", "X-Men: The Last Stand", and "Van Helsing", to name a few. Sure, he's always consistently good in any role you put him in, but he's no Johnny Depp, who can seemingly make a bad movie seem actually good (insert any of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies here). Oh well, what can you really do about it?
The film essentially follows a former boxer, Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman), in the future. Now, he makes a living promoting robot fighters, as it seems robot fights have become the most popular sport on Earth. To make a long story short, he sucks at it. Hell, even his damn preteen son knows more about the robot fighters' capabilities than he does, and that's kind of sad; especially considering that we're talking about a kid versus a grown man that fights these mechanical monstrosities for a living. Anyway, to make a long story short, Charlie is down on his luck, and in debt up to his eyeballs. However, as luck would have it, his ex-wife dies, and leaves him custody of their only son, Max (Dakota Goyo). But like all neglectful father figures in movies, Charlie doesn't want his son around at first, so he's all too willing to sign over his son to his sister's custody.
However, due to some rather complex arrangement, Charlie agrees to watch after his son for the summer, before having to relinquish full custody to his sister. Not only does Charlie want absolutely nothing to do with his own son, but he pretty much acts like a jerk to him throughout the first half of this movie. Gee, I guess Charlie is really racking up those points for "Father of the Year."
Eventually, Charlie and his son are scrimmaging through a random junkyard for parts, as they come across an old outdated sparring bot named Atom that's designed to take a lot of hits, but never dishes out real punishment usually....hmm...I wonder where this is going? From here, the story plays out like a robo version of "Rocky." Nobody believes this outdated sparring bot has what it takes to compete in the professional robot fighting league, let alone compete with it's undefeated champion, yet Max somehow coerces Charlie to believe that maybe just maybe....Atom can defy the odds.
Although I know a lot of people will give me some flak for saying this, but I make it a point to never ignore the painfully obvious. Granted, I will admit that I did like this movie a lot, but I'll explain why in a minute, as we have to get the negatives out of the way first. However, let's be honest with ourselves...we all know this film generically rips off every underdog sports movie cliche in the book; particularly from the "Rocky" series. As you have a robot that tends to take a lot of hits, nobody in their right mind gives Atom a chance, but somehow it defies the odds. Plus, this movie tends to run over the same Hollywood cliches about the neglectful father trying to reconnect with his son. Yes, if you seen as many movies as I have, then you should be all too familiar with these cliches.
However, with Jackman giving this film some credibility, how does this movie hold up you ask? Like I stated earlier, this film does have it's flaws, but it never gets boring. The film moves at a pretty decent pace, and never rushes past it's story development to rush to the fight scenes. No, like the "Rocky" movies, the fight scenes are reserved to be sort of a symbolic meaning of the fighter overcoming adversity, and represent some personal triumph for the protagonist. Giving the fight more of a deeper meaning than just two robots slugging the crap out of each other for a sold out crowd. Plus, even I'll admit that in spite of the cliches this film tends to rip off, it still does a fairly good job at playing with the emotional strings of it's audience. Sure, it may not have one of the deepest stories out there for a science fiction film, but it's not supposed to. No, it seems like Shawn Levy meant for this to be nothing more than a light hearted popcorn flick, with a fairly decent story, and he delivers on that quite well here.
Granted, I doubt seriously that we'll be talking about this movie again when the Oscars roll around, unless you want to count the technical categories like special effects, sound effects, sound editing and such. However, in terms of being an entertaining film that'll make you root for the underdog, while offering you plenty of heartfelt "aw" moments, then look no further than this movie.
As for the special effects, I'm sure most people can tell just by the trailers alone that it does feature top notch CGI, so there's no shocker there. Although, I will say that I was highly impressed with how well the fight scenes for this movie were choreographed to where we could actually see the robots fight more fluently. For those that remember my reviews of the previous "Transformers" films that were handled by Michael Bay, then you should know that one of my main gripes were that the fight scenes between the robots were not well choreographed, and looked...kind of shoddy at best... However, that doesn't seem to be a problem at all in "Real Steel", as the fight scenes are slowed down enough to where we can actually tell what's going on. Sure, it doesn't feature realistic damage as one would expect from two steel robots fighting each other, but as I stated earlier, Shawn Levy isn't interested in telling a highly innovative yet plausible story. No, he's just trying to tell a fairly entertaining one, and he succeeds on that note.
Overall, I think this film is definitely worth checking out once it comes out on DVD/Blue-Ray, but I'm not sure if I'd pay to see this in theaters to be quite honest. Then again, if you're one of those movie fans that want to see an emotional underdog story with a lot of sci-fi violence, then you might like this movie enough to want to fork out the extra money to see this in theaters. However, I just wouldn't expect too much out of it, as I'd probably have to give this movie a two and a half out of four. Not a great film by any means, but it's certainly entertaining nonetheless.