Real Steel blends the futuristic sport of robot boxing with squishy family drama. Make no mistake though, the combination somehow works and makes good on its promise: epic robot battles with just a hint of drama to keep the human element alive. Don’t look for any intellectual stimulation though, the film is as vacant as the robotic strongmen fighting for the title.
Charlie (Hugh Jackman) is the pilot behind a robot boxer – or rather many of them as they don’t have much of a shelf life with him at the helm. To pay off his laundry list of debts, Charlie needs make big bank but with his newly discovered son left in his hands following the death of his ex-girlfriend, this task may become a little tricky. After an humiliating defeat, Charlie and his son scour a dump for parts and come across a older generation robot that is more than he appears to be. With their new robot boxer, the two team up as the ultimate underdog contenders.
It should go without saying that this hyper-kinetic beat-em-up is complimented by cutting edge graphics and top notch choreography and it delivers these aspects exceptionally well. The family stuff, while effective filler is the obvious part that is of little interest but it still strikes a good balance of emotion and action. As with all boxing films, “Rocky” cliches run rampant but it is entertaining to watch the training montages satirised by robots!
When I initially watched the Real Steel, I discounted the human element as being cheesy and predictable but revisiting the film, I wish that they had put more of an emphasis on humanising Atom – a concept they touched on in a single scene but never really pushed. Instead they treat the humble bot as a metaphor for Charlie and his boxing glory days. This isn’t the Iron Giant – Atom doesn’t have a personality or sentient thought but seeing him integrated into the Kenton family wouldn’t have hurt the human dynamic – which in the end prevails leaving Atom seeming like more of a tool than anything else. The story could have gone in a lot of directions, the one that Levy took works well and if you’re looking for a fun ride then that is exactly what you’ll get.
You have to give some form of admiration to the team behind the 1080p transfer of Real Steel – this is the first release that I’ve seen that virtually has no artifacts, noise, distortion etc. whatsoever. This can probably be attributed to the all digital workflow that it was captured on but techincal jargon asided, the film truly is a thing of beauty with crisp outlines, subtle tonal shifts, gritty textures, extremely deep contrasts (particularly in the final ring scenes) and a great colour vibrance. Of particular note is how well preserved the glossy, shiny textures of the robots are – slick paint jobs and highly polished thingamajigs really pop right out.
On parity with the high standards of the visuals is the superb lossless audio mix which crushes all expectations with its great balance and clarity. The bass spectrum is surprisingly well put together with subtle, punchy effects for the robots footsteps that accurately represents them in addition to the powerful impacts that would be expected from the barrage of flying fist to face connections. It’s really a treat for the senses.
It should go without saying that a visual effects driven film should have a gallery componenent on its Blu-ray release – unfortuntely this isn’t the case which is dissapointing given how much conceptual work went into the production. Nevertheless, Real Steel contains passable special content that aren’t out of the ordinary.
Countdown to the Fight (the Chalie Kenton Story) – This is an interesting featurette that plays within the Real Steel universe as a television documentary colouring in the back story of Charlie by use of character interviews.
Making of Metal Valley – Featurette on the making of the junkyard scene from the film, it has a lot of variety in terms of content from design, to SFX, to stunts.
Building the Bots – A trip to the Legacy visual effects studio that were behind the creation of the Physical robots.
Sugar Ray Leonard: The Cornerman’s Champ – Short feature on Sugar Ray’s contributions to the film.
Deleted Scenes – junk footage that wasn’t used in the final cut.
Bloopers – a short but well put together montage of the outtakes
The Bottom Line
Real Steel remains a boys dream that knows what it wants and attacks the imagination of the young and the young at heart. That’s not say it isn’t for the fairer sex though. The bonus content is somewhat disappointing but the film looks great in High Def and the audio/visual transfer is unparalleled in terms of quality. A worthy addition to any sci-fi film collection, and as I discovered, very re-watchable.
Overall Score (not an average)