Real Steel Review

In this modern film era, stories set in the future tend to be dull, derivative affairs; products of lazy imaginations or chemically enhanced visions of a digital age out of control.

Rather than providing us with accurate predictions of upcoming political events or an artist’s eye view of a utopian landscape they disappointingly drift towards the narrow, bland and cliché.

Jazzed up with some funky costumes and a sprinkling of techno smoke and mirrors of course.

Characters tend towards the formulaic, the male lead hiding a dark secret from his childhood and forgetting to wash and shave. The female heroine is beautiful, mysterious and struggles to conceal her dignity beneath a suitably brief wardrobe. A supporting automation is always cute and hints at human characteristics.

And nobody ever, ever laughs.

Real Steel, directed by Shawn Levy and set in the not too distant future, doesn’t adhere to these rules. Futuristic characters wear normal clothes, live normal lives, drive normal vehicles on normal roads in normal towns. Even product placed, hand held technology is comfortingly familiar if you have seen Minority Report.

All perfectly normal. Except that the sport of boxing has been superseded by remote controlled, giant robot boxing.

Even this is an entirely believable premise, for a start nobody gives a shit about real boxing anymore. In fact I confidently predict that we are a matter of years away from a global robotic sport revolution.

The stars of the future will be the designers and the gamers. The crowds will roar in approval as Lionel Messi’s brilliant football career is ended after a fatal collision with an enormous lump of metal and wires. Usain Bolt will fail to make the qualifying standard time of 4 seconds for the 100 metre dash at a future Olympic Games, the gold medal going to a speccy eighteen year old design and technology student.

Imposing stadia will be erected and filled with doped up rejects from a Christina Aguilera video listening to ear melting rock music. Bookmakers, who are all Afro-American apparently, will take your cash bets as two 50 feet robots GET READY TO RUMBLE. All in a bling cage fighting ring made from blood diamonds and P Diddy’s teeth.

Real Steel will come to be seen as the benchmark of Robot boxing films. The standard to which all that follow are measured. I have already purchased the rights to a screenplay entitled “Raging Bot”, where an angry Italian-American robot beats the crap out of his plain but sweet robot wife for forgetting the WD40, and will be hawking it to producers in the coming months.

This is the essence of Real Steel, a boxing film with a twist. Rocky meets ET meets Robot Wars. With better robots.

The CGI is good but we’ve seen it all before in car commercials; the hero robot with hints of human characteristics even dances before engaging in combat.

At Real Steel’s core is a charming father son narrative, played resepctively by Hugh Jackman and Dakota Goyo. The precocious Goyo is impressive as a young boy acting out his gaming fantasies and provides some genuinely touching moments.

Evangeline Lilly is unnecessary as the nostalgic owner of a former real boxing gym who implausibly becomes something of a robot building engineer genius. But there’s no doubt she ticks a rather pretty box every major film seemingly needs to.

Real Steel is a passable, but in no way ground breaking action film, rescued from complete indifference by Jackman and Goyo providing a much needed human element to its tin man heart.

Whether it becomes the forerunner of an entirely new cinematic genre remains to be seen.

And nobody laughed, not even the once.

Frank Gardiner

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October 2011
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