Never in a million years did I think that I would enjoy a boxing robot movie from the director of NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM. But REAL STEEL happens to be exactly that—and it also happens to be a lot of fun. Hugh Jackman plays a former prizefighter and full-time screw-up trying to make ends meet in a near future where human martial arts have been replaced with robot combat.
The movie goes to great lengths to establish its science-fiction setting. These are really the best stretches of the movie, when Jackman is down-and-out, plying his trade at state fairs and seedy clubs.
Early in the film, Jackman learns of the death of his ex-girlfriend, and he ends up having to look after the young son he’s always avoided in exchange for $100,000. Director Shawn Levy specializes in family entertainment, but he manages to cultivate a surprisingly gritty vibe in this movie. Unfortunately, his wholesome instincts kick in the last act, which feels rushed and falsely uplifting. Still, there’s at least an hour and a half of a good movie here, and that’s way more than you usually get. So thumbs up from me but with some reservations.
CHRISTY: Yeah, I have no reservations at all on my thumb being down. Um, speaking of time, this does not need to be a two hour and seven minute long movie about Rock Em Sock Em Robots.
IGNATIY: You know…
CHRISTY: It’s so long. It keeps going.
IGNATIY: It, it is really really long.
CHRISTY: Oy vey…for a whole family. And again it’s not the whole family it’s just the little kids this is going to work for, and they deserve better.
IGNATIY: No, I…okay this is…you’re right. It’s a two hour and seven minute movie. I could have done without maybe the last 25 minutes of it, but I actually like the deliberate kind of slow pacing of say the first hour, hour and half. It’s setting up this world. And it’s introducing Jackman, and you’re learning all of these details about how all of these things work. They’re all these scenes of, you know, them fighting and working on the robots and you know looking for parts in a scrap yard.
CHRISTY: I will give you this that the robots themselves are pretty seamlessly integrated into the real world and so often special effects look really cheesy and quite jarring and quite fake. So, this is animatronic, right?
CHRISTY: Some of its CG, it blends pretty well, but you know they have no personalities. This is one of the things that’s wrong, one of the many things that are wrong with the Transformers movies, is that we’re being asked to engage with hunks of metal that have no soul.
IGNATIY: But, these robots are not supposed to be…to have personalities.
CHRISTY: We’re supposed to care about them. We’re supposed to care about who wins and who doesn’t.
IGNATIY: No, no we’re not. We’re supposed to care Jackman, and you know, about his…his son. And I, you know, I like Jackman in the early parts of the movie when he’s playing this sort of sleazy character.
CHRISTY: You know I like Jackman all the time but all that Broadway training is hammy and huge, and he’s playing to the balcony when he can be dialing it down and making it smaller and more tormented and grittier.
IGNATIY: He dials it down early on. I will give you that it…
CHRISTY: It’s big and hammy and cheesy.
IGNATIY: You’re right he’s hammy at the end
CHRISTY: The whole movie is hammy and cheesy and formulaic and so predictable that the kid…
IGNATIY: Just like 50/50.
CHRISTY: No, no, no that has surprises in it. This is just, ugh, this is a mess.