“Real Steel” script fails while robot-vs.-robot action wins

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Dreamworks II Distribution Co

Futuristic robots smash themselves to pieces in an abandoned zoo populated by post-apocalyptic punk fans, yet no new cars have been made since 2011. Enter the bizarre world of “Real Steel.” I went into “Real Steel” with low expectations, and was more than a little angry that I had spent $19 on an IMAX ticket at Regal Cinemas Bridgeport Village Stadium 18. What is commonly known as the “Rock’em Sock’em Robots” movie was surprisingly entertaining, but also annoying at times.

Set in the year 2027, robot boxing has arrived and risen in popularity, eliminating human boxing as a national sport. Charlie Kenton, played by Hugh Jackman, is a down-on-his-luck robot boxer who was a former boxer himself.

When Charlie’s ex-wife suddenly dies, he demands to be paid by his wealthy brother-in-law for the custody of his son, Max, played by Dakota Goyo. But since the in-laws are planning to go on a trip to Italy, Charlie agrees to take care of his son temporarily for more money.

Charlie, up to this point (while somewhat pitiable for his indebtedness) is a fairly horrible person. Aside from the fact that the main character is totally unlikeable, the dialogue in the first half of the film is exasperatingly expository. Most of it was lazy and I felt like I was having plot points explained to me over and over again.

Charlie and Max finally hit it off after Max is left alone on a cliff in a scrap yard in the middle of the night trying to recover a robot in the mud during a torrential downpour. It’s this kind of redeeming act of abandonment that shows how Charlie is bonding with his son. After Max gets the robot working, he figures out that it is named Atom and, though it is an older robot, it has a shadow boxing function so that Charlie can use his boxing skills to teach it moves.

This brings up another issue with the film: the future setting is totally unbelievable. The only improvements technologically seem to be that personal electronics have changed and robot boxing has been created. All the cars in the film, except for the truck Charlie uses to transport his robot, are modern models.

At this point in the film, Charlie and Max begin to tour Atom through different fight clubs, beating newer and larger competitors. The robot fights are by far the best part of this film. The metal to metal combat is engaging and brutal. Hall of Fame boxer, Sugar Ray Leonard, was an advisor on the CGI fight choreography.

While certainly not deserving of a $19 ticket charge, “Real Steel” is a definite winner as a rental to watch with friends who can make fun of it, while still being entertained. Real Steel is rated PG-13 for some violence, intense action and brief language.