Saturday, February 18, 2012

Real Steel

Written by Joe the Revelator

Thus far, among those I've discussed Real Steel with, a concession has yet to be reached over which game/movie/story the writers were emulating. It looks like One Must Fall or Armored Core or Rock-em-Sock-em robots. It follows the plot line of Rocky, and of the Twilight Zone episode "Steel". And it feels like every father-son sports movie ever made. Except with robots.

Hugh Jackman plays a robot fight promoter/controller, a shiftless gambler, and an incredibly terrible father. His only son has lost his mother, and for the wealthy aunt & uncle to adopt the kid, Jackman secretly charges them fifty grand, which he immediately spends on robot parts. The catch? He's forced to spend one summer with his son.

The son, however, has plans of his own. During a midnight heist through a robot junkyard to replace lost parts from Jackman's latest bungle, the kid is saved by an old, outdated sparring robot (Stallone from Rocky) After carting the robot back to the shop despite his father's protests, the kid finds a new friend underneath the steel plates and gyros, and he soon begins his career as a robot overlord.

Real Predictable

There isn't a single scene in this movie that can't be predicted by watching the first 10 minutes. And as I mentioned, if you've seen Rocky, you've seen this movie. The only thing Rocky Balboa lacked was a 10-year-old shouting voice commands into a headset, screaming at him to jab and uppercut. Instead, Rocky had a white-haired Irish midget, who shouted commands into his cauliflower ears.

Even the end boss is a tall, sleek black robot, which might have been played by Carl Weathers, though I can't be sure since he never took off the helmet. His controller is a Korean kid they found playing Starcraft in an internet cafe.

Cathartic Boxing

During the movie, Hugh Jackman's character is revealed to have been a promising prize-fighter himself, before boxing was replaced by robot fights. Nobody wanted to watch a boxing match when they could see robots get torn limb from limb. The irony of this statement is it explains perfectly why the audience would enjoy Real Steel.

I'll make it clear: Real Steel was a terrible movie, and I enjoyed it immensely. The caveman part of my brain that likes knocking over sandcastles and watching things burn, found robots going for broke on each other extremely cathartic. Transformers lacked a sense of permanent damage, since the robots themselves were composed of shifting, shapeless masses of gears and cogs. The robots in Real Steel seem to run the gamete between clunkers and Sony-bots, all waiting to have their plastic parts ripped out.

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