‘Real Steel’ DVD Review

Director: Shawn Levy

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Evangeline Lilly

Plot: Set…in the future, I guess?…a former boxer and robot boxer has custody of his son forced on him while he tries to make money by making robots fight each other.

Review: This movie is dumb. Not in a ‘so dumb it’s fun without being challenging’ way but a ‘I can’t believe someone could make something so fundamentally flawed’ kind of way. After coming up with the idea of making a movie about a futuristic sport centered around making robots punch each other the writers and directors basically called it a day.

Hugh Jackman Charlie Kenton, who is a complete asshat. At the beginning of the movie he is down on his luck – which he deserves – and tries to take money from small children to make his way. A plot about owing people money gets mentioned only so it can be brought up again at a key moment later in the film. When he needs some quick cash to buy a new robot, so he literally sells custody of his estranged son. Our hero everyone – this man actually makes a deal with someone who wants to look after his son stipulating that Kenton will only give up the custody of the kid he doesn’t want if he is paid to do it. What was his plan if the human people rejected his offer to sell them an 11 year old, but the kid to work on the streets?

'We're bonding over premeditated violence!"

This is just one of the many stupid decisions that characters make for the sole purpose of moving the plot forward. Buying a new robot, he DEMANDS that the robot be put into the toughest match he can find after being offered a fair match-up even though he is completely unable to control the robot. The rest of the story involves Jackman ‘bonding’ with his kid after he realizes that the kid is good at finding robots by falling off a cliff.

As everyone geek knows the key to an enjoyable science fiction is the creation of a well-thought out and believable world. Although it doesn’t actually put a date on the setting we know that humankind has advanced far enough to have developed technologically advanced robots that can perfectly replicate human movements – and they make these robots beat the shit out of each other. The first question asked by any viewer with half a brain is why this technology isn’t being used for something else. The world looks exactly as it did at the time of production with the newly advanced technology being used only to against each other in the boxing ring. Why not use it for, say, advancing the field of medicine? Improving vehicular safety? The service or care industries? It wouldn’t be a stretch for the film-maker to have put some labour-based robots in the background.

Or acting in 'The Three Stooges'?

Not that they even bring much to the boxing matches. There’s no reason why the robots couldn’t have been replaced with humans. Given the way people address the robots and talk about them it could’ve been a movie about real boxers with the decision made to swap them out with robots in post-CGI later. All the things that would’ve made a robot boxing match interesting is strangely absent. In a total lack of imagination all the robots follow a basic humanoid design. If you’re building a robot that is going to participate in a boxing match you should build him with twenty extra arms that are each the length of the ring. Maybe strap a jetpack onto that sucker and include a dozen chainsaws protruding out of its torso. Perhaps there’s some rules in play here, but they’re never mentioned.

The only occurrence of a robot being somewhat different is one with two heads. Hugh Jackman explains that he’s very dangerous because he doesn’t have a blind spot. Apparently nobody brought their brains to the set on this day because all the robots are controlled externally by a person outside of the ring – so how does gluing an extra head benefit the robot in the slightest? It’s not doing the seeing anyway. Plus all the robots are designed to stop working the moment their head gets damaged or detached – wouldn’t a smart designer put all the vital components somewhere a bit safer. Not only are the robot builders professional idiots, but so are the controllers. The main robot fighter can be controlled by voice or a ‘shadow’ function where he mimics a person. Although it is clear that the latter option is faster, offers better control and doesn’t rely on pre-programed responses they only use it when there’s literally no other option left. Again, why they’re not just using it from the beginning instead of only using it to make the robot dance The Robot (seriously) is never explained.

One of these characters is giving a stiff, unrealistic performance. And one of them is a robot.

Logic aside, the movie could still fall back on basic film-making to deliver a good flick. Sadly the script is arse, the dialogue is either cringe-worthy or nonsensical, the direction and editing is clunky and amateurish and the acting is complete crap. The characters are unlikeable douchebags who are only motivated by making more money and the relationship between the father and son is forced. The one redeeming feature of the film is the cool effects behind the robots, with visible working gears and pistons at work in the limbs. Pity much of the final smackdown is slow-motion close-ups of people responding in a manner that suggest powerful electrodes have been applied to their genitals.

Score: TWO outta TEN