To my absolute delight, I enjoyed Real Steel. It looks relatively corny and like a typical kids’ film, but it’s actually very well done. I’m hoping that Spielberg is the one to thank, but there’s plenty of gratitude to go around so let’s get to it.
The acting is superb, but then again, it’s Hugh Jackman. Hugh is a doll and even when he’s in shit movies (*cough* X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men First Class *cough cough*) he’s always fantastic. The big thing for me, though, is to see him play an asshole and he did it convincingly. For about the first 45 minutes of the movie, you really don’t like Charlie but you can’t hate him because just when you think you’ve had enough, he does something charming. He’s a hard ass, for certain, but it’s only to hide how unsure of himself he is as a person and most certainly as an unready father. That was one thing the trailers didn’t spoil, or at least the ones I saw—that the kid, Max, is actually his son. Based on the trailers, I thought he was the girl’s kid so that was already a win in their column for coming up with something different than what I expected.
Max is definitely the biggest appeal (next to Hugh Jackman’s beautiful smile and charm and perfect abs) because he’s tough and a smartass, but still endearing. He succeeds where many child characters often fail—toeing the line between being sarcastic and being a dick. He’s got a lot of heart and sweetness without going overboard and you can see that he and Jackman were on the same level when they worked together. Their relationship felt real, even the grimy parts of it. I really want to see this kid—Dakota Goyo, if you are curious—be in more movies. He’s fantastic and I hope this movie gets him out there.
Evangeline Lily is a welcome addition, but I really wish they had done a little more with her. She has excellent chemistry with Hugh. There’s one scene in particular that made me forgive them for not having any flashbacks in the film: when she’s just finished yelling at Hugh for never paying any rent and he just gives her this incredibly charming look that she tries to resist. He wins the argument by giving her The Look until she bursts into giggles and gives him yet another chance. See, that’s what I like in a film. These two characters don’t ever have a flashback together but I can feel the camaraderie between them with little quirks and looks and smiles and dialogue. I really appreciate that because it makes me care about their relationship in the long run.
Atom is pretty cool, but he too could have been used more. The movie never dives into where he came from or why he was in the scrap yard or if he actually is sentient on some level. I know that the focus of the film is Max and Charlie, but I still feel like Atom got a little cheated. He was pretty damn endearing for a robot. Hell, he could give Sonny from I, Robot a run for his money.
The fights were well done. I loved the model for Noisy Boy, even though he wasn’t in the movie for long. And Zeus is totally Megatron from Transformers: Beast Wars (“Yeeeeees.”) and no one can tell me anything different. He was fucking Megatron. xD
Overall, I’d give it a solid B/B- because it’s really fun and you’ll leave it smiling because it never gets too corny or too serious. It’s a great kids film and a decent film for the older crowd as well. You won’t be wasting your time if you see it, trust me.