Thursday, October 6, 2011

Real Steel review, a good movie with heart

Hollywood is going through an amazing transition right now.  Studios are very eager to green light films with a built in audience.  Movie properties with very little risk are making their way to theaters more so than risky art house pics.  Real Steel is supposed to be a low-risk movie.  It's based on a popular kid's game and short story.  Who doesn't remember Rock'em Sock'em Robots?  Well, these films are usually duds in my opinion and don't do much for me.  Well, let me tell you, Real Steel was awesome!  I'm excited to share what I think, so let's begin.

What I liked about the film:
Humans are the story
If you were to hear the synopsis to this film, you'd think there was little to no story, that is incorrect.  Sure the film features fighting CG (computer generated) robots.  But at the core of this film is a great father son story. Hugh Jackman leads the cast as Charlie.  He's a former boxer who has moved on to fighting robots.  Under extreme circumstances, his 11 year old son (whom he has no relationship with) has come to live with him for the Summer.  Jackman's son is played by Dakota Goyo.  The relationship starts out pretty cliche.  They don't like each other and they get on each other's nerves, and it's only because they're so much alike.  This part of the film, we've seen before.  Jackman and Goyo have a lot of chemistry together and it really shined though.

The Robots
Holy wow the robots are awesome. You're probably exhausted of robot fighting these days. Give this movie a chance. Each robot character has its own personality, similar to WWE type characters.  Director Shawn Levy does a good job balancing the action, and making sure it is there to compliment the story, not take it over.  The CG is terrific, among the best I've seen in a long time.  The main robot in the film is Atom, and is treated very carefully by Levy.  He didn't want to make us feel too attached to the robot and lose sight of the father and the son; but you can't help but look at him as another main character worth rooting for.  It didn't hurt that the fight sequences were choreographer by the legendary Sugar Ray Leonard.  Nicely done.

The Score
The score by Danny Elfman is wonderful.  I had the pleasure of seeing the film early with a packed theater, and there were several scenes where a lot of clapping was going on.  Just as it was with The Fighter and Warrior, the music played an essential role in the success of the fight scenes.

The Director
I can't believe how much trash I was talking when I look back at my post announcing Levy the director.  I criticized his hiring because of the films he's made in the past.  The films in his past may very well be the reason he was the perfect hiring.  The Night at The Museum films taught him how to use CGI to his advantage; films like Date Night, Just Married and Cheaper By The Dozen helped to focus on the human stories.  The casting, score and editing were great in my opinion.  All that is attributed to Levy's vision.

What I didn't like about the film:
The Length
The movie suffers in one regard, it's run time.  There is perhaps one too many fights.  The film follows the father son duo and their robot from obscurity to super stardom.  Even with a montage to cut some of the less-important fights out of the film, it's still too many.  One fight should have been cut and put into the "Director's Cut" of the DVD/Blu-Ray.

No Real Villain 
This is a popcorn flick, and there's no real villain.  I should explain.  Olga Fonda plays a robot owner who is annoyed by Atom's success.  She owns the undefeated, undisputed champion of all robots, Zeus (of course, right?).  Like I said earlier, the director did a great job of making the movie more about the humans than the robots, so Zeus isn't really the villain.  And Fonda is barely in the film, so she isn't either.  I just wish there was a clear cut villain.

The Verdict:
A lot of fun, a lot of heart
I enjoyed this film very much.  I really "bought" the relationship between Hugh Jackman and Dakota Goyo.  It's not going to win either of them an Oscar, but it was believable despite the craziness going on.  Each character helps the other grow in some way, and I love that.  Jackman is forced to shape up or lose his son.  And his son gets to feel what it's like to have a father after 11 years without one.  There are a few great scenes between the two that are sprinkled throughout that really made me a fan.  You'll notice I've barely talked about the boxing, because it's not what the entire movie is about.  It's there and it's awesome.  But any great movie, ANY great movie, had a great story to tell.

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