When trailers were first shown for Real Steel, many people probably thought the movie was one of two things: a film version of the classic childhood game Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots or a version of Rocky redone with robots. Are either of these true descriptions of Real Steel, or is the movie more than another redone classic?
Real Steel stars Hugh Jackman as Charlie Kenton, a former boxer who now owns a robot fighter. The movie takes place in 2020 and by this time, regular boxing has been replaced by robot boxing. The robots fight just like humans did, but they are controlled by remote or voice recognition used by their owners. When Charlie is told that an ex-girlfriend of his has died, he finds himself left with a pre-teen son he never knew he had, Max, played by newcomer Dakota Goya. Reluctantly, Charlie allows Max to come along with him on the road as they build and train a new underdog robot to fight against the top robot in the league.
The movie is a mix between a father and son bonding and a classic boxing movie, with robots thrown in. Jackman and Goya have good chemistry together, and the progression of their at-first brooding relationship seems natural on film. Jackman seems very talented at playing a washed out boxer, so he brings a lot to the film as the lead. Goya, also good in his role, plays a rebellious pre-teen who has been separated from his father all his life. This could be considered his breakthrough role, and I would not be surprised if he is in many more films in the future.
One thing that does need to be addressed is the connections that this movie has to Rocky. Anyone who has seen Rocky will immediately pick up on the many similarities that the two films have. The creators of Real Steel placed many homages to the Rocky series in this movie, so think of it more as a tribute than a complete rip off – though I will say that the final boxing scene in Real Steel is a punch for punch recreation of the final boxing scene in Rocky 4. I see that more as an Easter egg for the fans than a rip off, so it should not take away from your viewing experience at all.
All in all, Real Steel is a great movie. It should not be called Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots the movie or Rocky with robots.
Instead, it should be considered a fresh take on an old genre that should be checked out by everyone.