Real Steel (2011) DVD9
DVD9 | VIDEO_TS | NTSC 16:9 (720x480) | 02:06:42 | 7,77 Gb
Audio: English, French, Spanish - AC3 5.1 @ 384 Kbps (each) | Subs: English, French, Spanish
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi | USA, India
In the near future when people become uninterested in boxing and similar sports, a new sport is created - Robot boxing wherein robots battle each other while being controlled by someone. Charlie Kenton, a former boxer who's trying to make it in the new sport but not only doesn't do well, he is very deeply in the red. When he learns that his ex, mother of his son Max, dies, he goes to figure out what to do with him. His ex's sister wants to take him in but Charlie has first say in the matter. Charlie asks her husband for money so he can buy a new Robot in exchange for turning Max over to them. He takes Max for the summer. And Max improves his control of his bot. But when the bot is destroyed, they go to a scrap yard to get parts. Max finds an old generation bot named Atom and restores him. Max wants Atom to fight but Charlie tells him he won't last a round but Atom wins. And it isn't long when Atom is getting major bouts. Max gets Charlie to teach Atom how to fight and father and son bond.
|Like Atom, the giant, vaguely humanistic sparring robot that is dug out of the mud and becomes an unlikely champion in the near-futuristic world of robot boxing, Real Steel is a big, seemingly clunky contraption that works against all odds. Inspired by a 1956 short story by the prolific writer Richard Matheson that was previously adapted as a very different episode of The Twilight Zone starring Lee Marvin, Real Steel is constructed out of every conceivable underdog sports movie component imaginable, all of which are tweaked by the story’s science fiction concept, which sidelines direct human competition in the ring, but without losing the emotional and interpersonal impact.
The film’s efficiently formulaic nature shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given that the screenplay was penned by John Gatins, who has created his own cottage industry of sports movies over the past decade, having written rousing, audience-friendly, feel-good movies about baseball (Hard Ball and Summer Catch, both from 2001), basketball (2005’s Coach Carter), and horse racing (2005’s Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story). Thus, he knows the blueprint and employs it in Real Steel with a kind of laser precision, putting each piece neatly into place, carefully evoking previous underdog triumphs without appearing to rip them off. In a way, the movie is like Rocky IV minus the Cold War but with the addition of robots. Or maybe it is more like Paper Moon minus the Depression but with the addition of robots. No, wait--it is more like Over the Top minus the arm wrestling but with the addition of robots.
The story takes place in the near distant future in which competitive boxing has been replaced by robot boxing matches that pit 10-foot mechanical behemoths against each other in what looks more like mixed martial-arts than traditional boxing (the deft mixture of CGI and practical animatronic effects are entirely convincing in making the concept both plausible and exciting). The robots are controlled video-game-style by a human manager, but much of their success depends on their engineering and toughness. This concept supplies grist for a few stabs at social relevance, such as the suggestion that robot boxing satiates the audience’s increasing bloodlust, but thematic depth is not exactly the film’s strong suit. It is much more comfortable in the terrain of the emotionally rousing, rather than the thought stirring, and the best thing you can say about its comfortable predictability is that at least it isn’t hacked to ribbons Michael Bay-style (I would say that presence of Steven Spielberg as executive producer helped maintain some level of classicism, but I keep forgetting that his imprint is also on the Transformers movies). Director Shawn Levy, who has worked primarily in broad action comedies like Night at the Museum (2006) and Date Night (2010), falls right into line, hitting all the high notes, balancing humor and sentiment, providing plenty of crane shots to remind us of the enormity of the stakes, and, when in doubt, letting Danny Elfman’s soaring musical score fill in any and all gaps.
The protagonist is Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman), a former boxer-turned-two-bit-huckster who now subsists by working the lower rungs of the robot boxing circuit, always running short on cash and just ahead of his many creditors. Charlie is presented as a less-than-sympathetic case of bad luck, bad decision-making, and all around selfishness, but because he is played with grizzly, slightly weathered charm by Jackman, his potential for redemption is already built in. When Charlie learns that an ex-girlfriend has died, leaving him with the care of an 11-year-old son named Max (Dakota Goyo) who he hasn’t seen in, well, 11 years, the stage is set for that redemption, as he takes the kid on the road with him for a bit of old-fashioned hate-to-love bonding in which both characters learn and grow while gaining increasing international fame with their new fighting bot, the aforementioned Atom, which Max digs out of the mud at a metal dump and insists be given the chance to compete. Atom, with his seemingly expressionless face and glowing blue eyes, is a curious figure because he is never directly anthropomorphized (that is, he never speaks or expresses himself in human terms), which makes him a perfect repository and mirror for all the emotions around him. He thus becomes both a mechanical father surrogate to Max by providing the kind of reliability and tenacity that Charlie could only dream of, as well as a metaphor for Charlie’s down-and-out status: Both are old, outdated, and discounted, and both are redeemed by Max’s fervent belief and willingness to defy the system.
As played by Goyo, who we last saw as the child version of Chris Hemsworth in last summer’s Thor, Max is a tough, ahead-of-his-years kid who knows that his dad is a bum, but wants to tag along with him anyway because he digs robot boxing (as any 11-year-old would). While Max comes with a blessed lack of cutesiness, the film sometimes pushes too far in the other direction, making him so supremely self-prepossessing, punchy, and at times downright audacious that he starts to feel more like a screenwriter’s device, rather than a flesh-and-blood character (the same could be said for Evangeline Lilly’s Bailey, a woefully underwritten love interest). It’s hardly enough to derail the movie’s steady momentum, though, and once we come to the big climax, in which Atom faces down a seemingly invincible fighting bot designed by a reclusive Japanese genius/fashion model and Charlie gets to reclaim his lost glory as a scrappy boxer, it is hard to resist the surge of pleasure that accompanies any triumphant underdog, even if said underdog is a robot.
- Audio Commentary
- Making of Metal Valley
- Building the Bots