Thursday, October 13, 2011

Real Steel [2011]

Director: Shawn Levy
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Evangeline Lily, Anthony Mackie, Kevin Durand
Genre: Science fiction/Drama/Sport
Rating: General
Excerpt: "
Despite the subject matter, Real Steel is anything but robotic..."


Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) is a down-on-his-luck former boxer whose livelihood has been taken over by machines. As jaded as he is, Charlie goes with the flow by participating in robot boxing as well, fighting in various small-time events. When news arrive of his ex-girlfriend's demise, Charlie is more than ready to give up custody of his eleven-year-old son, Max (Dakota Goyo) to his ex-girlfriend's sister, but then hatches a scheme to make money out of the deal by taking care of the boy while she goes on vacation with her wealthy husband. Little that Charlie know, he's about to get a lot more than what he bargained for.

What to Expect
1. Winning performance by Dakota Goyo
2. Exhilarating robot fights
3. Forgivable cliches
4. Many heartwarming as well as funny moments

What NOT to Expect
1. Transformers-like CGI masturbation
2. A winner by unanimous decision

As skeptical as I had been, I never intended to sit this one out even after the second theatrical trailer revealed that we can foresee how it's all going to turn out. Besides, it got me all pumped up ever since I saw it and now that I've seen the entire movie, I must say it was very much worth the wait.

Now, you might argue that it's only because of the well-documented fact that I am a huge boxing fan to begin with. No doubt, I wouldn't encourage the idea that Real Steel is a winner by unanimous decision. So let me lay it down for you; Indeed it's loud and it incorporated many conventions of its genre. But if you bear with me, you will find out how easy it is to forgive all the cliches due to its many redeeming qualities.

First of all, the advertising campaign of this movie may have put Hugh Jackman in the spotlight, but the real star of this movie was not him. Nope, it wasn't the robots either. It's child actor Dakota Goyo whom I don't remember seeing before, so I believe this might be the first time he was prominently featured in a movie. It wouldn't be too much to say that he played a pivotal role in making sure the movie worked.

As they say in boxing, you need to have both strength and heart to succeed. So while Hugh Jackman and the robots may had been the strength of Real Steel, much of its heart came from Dakota Goyo's performance. Hugh Jackman's character said it himself, "everybody loves a kid", or something to that effect. And how true it is. Who doesn't love the unbridled passion of a child who sees the possibilities in everything, while us adults tend to grow weary with each passing year, anchored down by worries and bad experiences.

You might ask how could that fit seamlessly between scenes of robots mercilessly slugging it out? Well, the answer is actually really simple.

Real Steel never sought out to be Transformers taking place in a boxing ring (because fuck Transformers, right?). At its core, this movie is actually a drama about a flawed man who finds redemption through forging a real relationship with his son. It can be inferred that Charlie Kenton spent his youth climbing to the top, only to stumble and fall all the way down. He has been trying to get back up ever since, not realising that the journey towards greatness almost has no meaning without any loved ones by his side.

If there's only one thing you want to take away from this movie, that should be it. Everything else was just window dressing. But my oh my, what a splendid window dressing it was.

If you're uninterested in reading between the lines, then I suppose the fight scenes should dazzle you. They made it seem really plausible that robot boxing can really be that popular, you almost won't have to stretch your suspension of disbelief. The fight scenes were really that good. Well, it would have been unforgivable if they weren't since they had the benefit of being choreographed by real life boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard.

All the same, I didn't see them as being anything more than a part of a greater scheme of things. Sure, the intensity of it all made me grip the armrest of my seat tightly whenever the fight scenes came along. But what purpose the fights really served was that they represented the hardship the characters went through, and triumphing over them all served as a mean for them to redeem themselves in one way or another.

I don't mind telling you I shed a tear watching the big climactic fight. It just shows that no matter how much of a steel you can be, a human will always be human. So yeah, despite its subject matter, Real Steel was anything but robotic.

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