Real Steel Movie Review
In the near future, Charlie (Jackman) is an ex-boxer who now controls massive robots that have taken over the sport. A stubborn failure buried in debt, he has no interest in his 11-year-old son Max (Goyo), whose mother has just died, but agrees to care for him until his rich aunt and uncle (Davis and Rebhorn) return from holiday. But Max is far more savvy with robots than his dad. And with the help of Dad's lovelorn pal Bailey (Lilly), Max defies Charlie's expectations with his scrapheap robot Atom.
The story is structured as a standard story of redemption, so we know that Charlie will turn himself around. But the problem is that Charlie is such a jerk that we despise him both for the way he bullheadedly destroys his life and how he so cruelly dismisses his son. This is laid on so thickly that we can't develop any sympathy for Charlie, despite Jackman's enormous charm; all of our allegiance is with Max, who is wise and knowing and sees things as they are.
There's also the problem that much of the film centres on noisy robot battles, which are clearly where director Levy's interest lies. He puts all of his energy into making these key moments in the plot, but we never remotely care what happens when two metal beasts are bashing the bolts out of each other. And it doesn't help that Levy directs the cast to give over-the-top performances that desperately try to wring every drop of angst from each scene.
Visually, the film looks great, with a realistic depiction of the future. And the robots have believable presence on screen; Atom even seems to have a soul, although his connection to Max is far more moving than Max's relationship with his dad. Even so, we find ourselves cheering through the final scenes, knowing exactly how it's going to end but getting caught up in the manipulative rah-rah filmmaking just the same.