Real Steel Review
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Ever since DreamWorks first announced Hugh Jackman’s robot boxing adventure, Real Steel, movie geeks have been calling it “that Rock’em Sock’em Robots movie.” Though it was never actually connected to the classic boxing-robots game (in fact, Mattel later announced plans to make a real Rock’em Sock’em Robots movie), the similarities to the classic game seemed just a little too obvious to be ignored. Once you see it, though, you’re sure to forget all about those little blue and red boxing bots.

Charlie Kenton (Jackman) once believed that he had a successful boxing career ahead of him—until fans decided that regular boxing was simply too tame. So, to satisfy audiences’ violent appetites, robot boxing was created. Now, Charlie is a struggling promoter who can’t seem to keep a bot in one piece.

After he loses yet another robot, Charlie’s hit with another blow: his ex-girlfriend has died, leaving behind their 11-year-old son, Max (Dakota Goyo). Charlie manages to work out a lucrative custody deal with Max’s rich uncle, but it means having to take the kid for the summer.

Max isn’t thrilled about spending the summer with his deadbeat dad, but once he gets a feel for the robot boxing game—and he finds an old robot that he could turn into a fighter—he’s eager to give it a shot.

The tone is uneven, the characters often annoying, but the robot-fighting action alone is enough to have audiences cheering for Real Steel.

Though the giant fighting robots make for some natural comparisons to Michael Bay’s Transformers movies, the similarities don’t stop with the bots. Like Bay’s films, Real Steel is often loud and in-your-face, with some pretty impressive effects. Also like Bay’s films, the story is rather perplexing (not to mention contrived), with characters that aren’t always lovable. Jackman’s Charlie isn’t an easy guy to love: a reckless and impulsive gambler who’s willing to sell his own kid. And while Max’s anger issues are understandable, his attitude early on doesn’t exactly make him an endearing young hero. Fortunately, both characters mellow out a bit as the story continues, but it definitely takes a while to warm up to them.

The story, meanwhile, fluctuates between the family drama and the robot fighting—which definitely makes for a strange mix. At times, it’s like a heartwarming Disneyesque family movie; at other times, it’s Transformers Beyond Thunderdome. It simply tries a little too hard to tell a story—and, in the process, the two conflicting moods end up making the whole thing feel consistently off-balance.

Still, the real focus of the film is its moments in the ring—and the battle scenes don’t disappoint. They’re gritty and thrilling and stylistically stunning. Each arena is unique—from the industrial Crash Palace to the wild and rustic Zoo—and each fight brings something new for audiences to cheer about. The story sometimes drags on a bit too much between the fights, but these are the moments when the film, the robots, and the characters shine.

The story may fit the usual formulas, but, with its massive combatants and metal-crushing battles, Real Steel is unlike any fight movie you’ve seen before. Though you’ll have to overlook a lot of flaws and inconsistencies to enjoy it, but the crowd-pleasing robot action makes it worth a look.

Blu-ray Review:
The best part of Real Steel is its gritty robot fighting—and the film’s Blu-ray release does a pretty good job of focusing on the film’s best parts.

The Blu-ray disc includes a number of fight-focused features, including Countdown to the Fight: The Charlie Kenton Story, a fun faux ESPN feature that introduces the character, takes a look at his background, and explores the rise of roboboxing. Building the Bots is a short feature that shows how director Shawn Levy (on the advice of executive producer Steven Spielberg) chose to mix the CGI with real, larger-than-life robots. But the best of the bunch is Sugar Ray Leonard: Cornerman’s Champ, which shows The Champ having some fun in the ring while helping Jackman train for his role (and giving a little choreography advice, too).

Other extras include Making of Metal Valley, a fascinating behind-the-scenes feature that takes an in-depth look at the amazing stunts and effects that helped to create the Metal Valley scenes, a short blooper reel, and a couple of deleted / extended scenes—including an entire deleted storyline.

Of course, if that’s still not enough, you can always check out the Second Screen feature, an interactive kind of commentary track that allows you to choose from all kinds of additional content as you watch the film. So if you just can’t get enough of the roboboxing action of Real Steel, you’ll find plenty more to enjoy on the film’s Blu-ray release.

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