I’m going to be honest, when I first saw the trailer for this film, I thought it was going to basically be an attempt to beat people to a “Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robots” movie. However, I was surprised to find out about the source material, the short story “Steel” by Richard Matheson. In fact, this isn’t the first time this story’s been adapted to the screen, the first time being as an episode of “The Twilight Zone”.
Both DreamWorks and Touchstone, a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company, have placed a lot of faith in this film. So much so that they began development on the sequel with the two main cast members, Dakota Goyo and Hugh Jackman, already slated to reprise their roles, if the film can work with Jackman’s crowded schedule.
The story of this film takes place in the not too distant future. Robots have replaced humans in the sport of boxing, resulting in a much grittier sport that makes MMA look like a game of tag. While the original short story took place mostly in state fairs and other Americana settings, this film put a modern spin on it, complete with official leagues in addition to the underground robot fights.
The bulk of the story follows Charlie Kenton, played by Hugh Jackman, a retired boxer trying to make his living through robot fights, and often failing. He then is put in a situation where he needs to take care of his estranged son, Max, played by Goyo. While on the road, and a couple of smashed robots later, the two uncover an older generation sparring bot named Atom who becomes the robotic equivalent of Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky”.
While the story is your typical “father-son bonding” sports movie, this is one of the times where I think it was safe to take to road more traveled. This makes the story easy to get into and enjoy no matter how old you are.
The familiarity of the story also makes it easier for the characters to be developed, which in turn makes it easier for the actors, something that this film really shows as the performances in this film are done really well.
The action in this film is also pretty solid, a lot more realistic than the robot fights you see in most anime. It’s also a great deal darker as well, as you see robots dismembered and set aflame as the film works its way to the climactic “underdog vs. reigning champ” match.
Overall, this was an enjoyable film. It had a solid and enjoyable story with good pacing. The acting was top notch and the action, albeit mostly CGI, was both realistic and thoroughly engaging. This is one film that I recommend highly for any fan of boxing, realistic Sci-Fi, and even mecha and super robot anime. While it’s not the next “Rocky” or “Fearless,” this film has it where it counts. To me, what makes a good movie is if it one that has you thoroughly entertained and can be enjoyed by anybody of any age. That’s why I give “Real Steel” a 5/5. An entertaining ride from beginning to end.