Friday, 30 September 2011


Real Steel [Review]

Opinion: B+

Technically brilliant, the film features clean looking photography and slick looking visual effects in the form of dynamic robot-boxing sport. Hugh Jackman punches vividly as Charlie Kenton, who gave a great performance together with Dakota Goyo as his son Max. Screenplay allowed plenty of opportunities to entertain as it featured a long (a little too long in my opinion) and steady build-up to the realisation of the underdog's destiny with a pleasant inclined focus upon the human leads over the robots.

A gritty, white-knuckle, action ride set in the near-future, where the sport of boxing has gone hi-tech, “Real Steel” stars Hugh Jackman as Charlie Kenton, a washed-up fighter who lost his chance at a title when 2000-pound, 8-foot-tall steel robots took over the ring. Now, nothing but a small-time promoter, Charlie earns just enough money piecing together low-end bots from scrap metal to get from one underground boxing venue to the next. When Charlie hits rock bottom, he reluctantly teams up with his estranged son Max (Dakota Goyo) to build and train a championship contender. As the stakes in the brutal, no-holds-barred arena are raised, Charlie and Max, against all odds, get one last shot at a comeback.

Pertaining to my earlier comment on the film's clean looking photography, it's a little too clean for my liking to be honest. With what should be a dirty gritty sport revolving greasy oily mechanical robots, at times the photography felt a little too bright with too much clarity. Of course, it could be argued that the pleasant clarity reflected a futuristic digital technology age.

Real Steel did impress with some incredible motion capture technology and CG visuals.

This became very prominent when the lead robot Atom performed shadowboxing, mirroring Jackman's boxing stances and Goyo's dance moves. Not only did it allow the robot to fascinate as a capable fighting robot, but also connected the audience close to Atom as it appeared more human-like.

With a robot-boxing centric film, you'd be surprised that it's actually a lot about its characters over the robot action. Jackman and Goyo did spend a lot of screen time together via the impromptu father and son partnership. Through robot-boxing, it tightened the bonds between them to allow them to rediscover themselves. Credits owed to the screenwriters (Jon Gatins, Dan Gilroy, and Jeremy Leven), who also managed to churn out some engaging light moments amidst the high octane action.

In minor ways, Real Steel resembles a set-in-the-future Super 8 with a slight touch of Amblin wonder as its core revolves around the young Goyo. Here, it's all about reliving our childhood in the future. Although set in the future where robot-boxing predominates, domestic relationships have no less importance than robot-boxing.

This is where the film's excellence resides.

During battles, as the robots negotiate each other as opponents, we also get to see Jackman and Goyo bickering and picking on each other. Sometimes in frustrations, sometimes in joy. These shared emotions were what sealed them both firmly together, whether they know it in heart or not.

A pity that Evangeline Lilly's role was limited and underwritten, as her magnetic presence would definitely warrant for more. Kevin Durand also left an impression as the cocky side character who boasted a pitiful witless self-indulgence.

While the film ensued for a good 2 hours and some minutes, its steady build up to its climatic final action set was surprisingly not as sensational as I would have thought it to be. Melodrama wasn't prominent, although a couple of scenes did make us feel for them through the sight of their unfortunate plight.

Besides the robot-boxing sport, it is somewhat difficult to tell that the film is set in the future age of sophisticated technology. This might hinder some audience in terms of plausibility, but it only dawned upon me towards the end when I noticed that the ring microphone was wired.

Together with some adrenaline-pumping rap and rock tracks, Real Steel makes a good watch at the cinemas saturated with entertainment and production values.

(Premiere screening courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Singapore and Nuffnang SG)


  1. Excellent review, mate, and I'm so jealous you already managed to see this. In my country it will be out on Oct 7, and I can't wait to check it out. Loved the trailers - it looks so much fun.

  2. A B+? I'm still going to keep my expectations low, just in case.

  3. Wow. I had little desire to catch this one, but I'm curious now.

  4. @Nebular George thank you so much for your kind words. It will be screening this weekend, can't wait to hear what you feel of it!

    @Alex True that my opinion could be subjective in some sense. Also, I went in after a hard day's work, so my expectations were kept minimal. Will be waiting to see how you find it! :)

    @Sammy Hey nextdoorcritic, thanks for reading this. You might want to give it a try although there are some critics who aren't exactly in favour of this. Will read your review of it after you watch this! :)

  5. its an awesome movie! ;D they should've made a 3D version. haha :P


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