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Real Steel

Real Steel: Triumph of a Robot-Boxing Underdog

  • Anthony MackieDakota Goyo...
  • Action & AdventureDrama...
  • Shawn Levy
reviewed by
Yasmin Shehab
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Real Steel: Triumph of a Robot-Boxing Underdog

Washed up boxer and absentee father Charlie (Jackman) is saddled with
his kid Max (Goyo) when his mother dies. As a way out of his colossal financial
problems and as a way to get rid of the kid, he agrees to sign over custody to
Max’s aunt for a hundred grand and as long as Max spends a month with him
first. This is a classic story of redemption and defeating the odds. Lessons
learned from Real Steel: giving up on
yourself is bad, giving up on your kids is worse, so is selling them, brains
can conquer brute strength, money isn’t everything, and never write off the

In the near future, the fight game has changed. Robots have replaced
humans in the ring to increase the potential for destruction. Charlie, who was
formerly a great boxer, was never able to adapt to the change and got left in
the dust. Refusing to admit defeat, he buys robot after robot having them all
destroyed in the ring due to his rash and reckless choices. 

While in a junk yard looking for spare parts, Max literally stumbles
over a complete robot. He takes him, cleans him up and gets him working again
only to discover that Atom is a sparring-bot and not made for actual fights. Although
Charlie is initially reluctant to put Atom in a full blown fight, the robot
wins his first fight to the tune of a thousand dollars. Buoyed by this
unexpected start, Charlie and Max whip Atom into shabe, winning fight after fight
until they find themselves competing in the league where Max challenges the
reigning champion, Zeus, to a fight.       

While Real Steel stars a bunch
of kickass robots, it’s absolutely nothing like Transformers. In fact it’s way more entertaining and the robots
look every bit as good. They integrate seamlessly with the background and are
absolutely perfectly lit. Unlike the Transformers, these boxing robots are manmade
and do not have any type of personality. They’re just fancy toys made and
operated by humans. Yet because they’re slightly humanoid in appearance they
get conflated with human qualities. These robots are a work of art and serious
kudos to the designers that worked on them. Each of them projects a different
quality and character while still looking like something which humans could
potentially build. Their fight scenes are exhilarating and while the fighting
style is more or less the same, the settings from one fight to another change
drastically, imbuing each with a different mood. You have fights in underground
fight clubs, a place called the Zoo run by a bunch of bad tempered punks and
huge stadiums. There’s even a robot/bull fight in the mix.

Max and Charlie’s relationship and bonding process provides the film’s
emotional arc. Goya is that rare child star that isn’t cloying. While he looks
every bit the cute, little, helpless, skinny, blond kid, he has a certain
amount of bite and spades of determination. He comes across as a genuinely
sweet kid that had the misfortune to be born to a father that doesn’t want him.
And while he isn’t trying to rectify his relationship with his father, he isn’t
opposed to change either. Boxing is the only thing that these two have in
common and they end up bonding over their project and their string of

Max humbles Charlie and teaches him to believe in himself and to quit
making rash decisions while Charlie opens up this world for him that he’d only
ever previously seen on TV. While Jackman’s Charlie is cocky, self absorbed and
a genuinely horrible person at first, his transformation into a decent human
being isn’t very convincing. But that’s only really because, Jackman is far
more believable as nice Charlie than as the guy who wholeheartedly sold his

This is a feel good family film with a plot that has been done to death
however Real Steel is an enormous
amount of fun. Watching Atom defying the odds is highly satisfying and a real
crowd pleaser. 

Like This? Try

Rocky, Warrior, The Karate Kid

360 Tip

The Atom/Zeus showdown is a highly faithful recreation of the Ivan Drago vs Rocky Balboa fight from Rocky IV.

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