February 22, 2013 by CINEfaction Movie Review.
Just like its hero, Real Steel is all heart. Its glossy, twee, well shot but sadly all too mechanical. Just like Super 8 before it, the film suffers from an odd focus on a saccharine set of characters, who when in the midst of the fantastical dangers of the films plotting still seem all too concerned with their own social dynamics, good looks and shattered family histories.
I felt no sympathy for Hugh Jackman, who was likable and believable, as the film seems to champion the notion that sometimes we aren’t good enough and that we should just give up. There seems to be a natural order at work, that the people with all the money will inevitably get what they want and that this is ultimately right. Case in point, Jackmans offspring ends up with his wealthy aunt or that Jackman’s ‘everyman’ robot eventually loses the title fight, one or the other would have sufficed. OK, with regards to the fight, it is almost a cliché in the sports movie that our hero should take the moral victory rather than to actually win but here it would have been much more fitting given the set up. If Jackman had won the final fight he would have exercised his previous boxing demons and proved to the kid that anything is possible. As it stands, the ending is flat and depressing. Ok, so the Matheson short story and twilight zone episode features a similarly depressing sentiment. In Matheson’s incarnation of the story we see a run down human looking robot who just cannot fight anymore, so his broke owners hitch a plan to get paid regardless; one of them will fight the fight pretending to be the robot. The result is a excruciating, bloody, depressing defeat but its also a comment on the triumph of the human spirit. No matter how hard he gets hit our hero keeps fighting, he just has to. As with all Matheson’s Hollywood adaptations the filmmakers should have just stuck to the source material and they could have made something engaging. I would wholeheartedly recommend for all those interested to check out the Twilight Zone episode of this tale, its great.
The CGI is fine but I still regularly feel disconnected from CGI heavy action. I felt similar disconnection when watching Transformers, I don’t want to watch rubbery CG robots throwing each other about, I might as well stay in and watch someone else play their Playstation.
Also, the film has an odd and uneven tone. It seems to be a kid’s movie that rides the ropes of a very adult genre. There are character clichés here that kids won’t understand and that subsequently get lost the rich tones of the films thick veneer. The films opening ‘bull fight’ in retrospect seems flabby and without merit, a truer piece of cinema would have cut this and gone straight for the jugular. A useful reference point in this respect is the original Karate Kid, it follows a very familiar pattern but without all the bloat and needless melodrama. There is a rush and a zip to the Karate Kid that seems to have been lost in modern cinema especially those movies catered toward kids. Children don’t need 4 scenes reiterating an emotional beat, ‘REAL STEEL’ could have been a really enjoyable 95 minute romp but instead its limp and fatty. It is a common mistake by the Spielberg endorsed film-making crew, length seems to be a substitute for weight.
All that said, i would rather watch a well made piece of tosh than a poorly executed average movie. The cast are all fine, with Jackman continuing to impress as he juggles being handsome, likable and even menacing when needs must, it’s a shame he has to waste his time on toss like this.