Friday, 25 May 2012

Real Steel (2011)



For a film about boxing robots, I really enjoyed Real Steel. Rather than concentrating on the action and the huge robots, the heart of the film is the relationship between Charlie (Hugh Jackman) and his son Max (Dakota Goyo). Charlie abandoned Max and his Mum while Max was still very young. Fast forward 11 years and Mum is now dead after an accident, but before her sister takes custody of Max, Charlie wants to spend one summer with him. Little do they know that this summer Max will find Atom, a sparring robot that will help cement the father-son relationship as they take him to fight the big time.

Hugh Jackman is good as the father who wants to do one thing right in regards to his son; he also has the physique and presence to be great as the ex-boxer turned robot boxer. Evangeline Lilly is fine as Bailey Tallet, the daughter of Charlie's old trainer, and essentially the love interest. The real surprise is the performance from Dakota Goyo. It is a very strong performance from one so young and put me in mind of Hailee Steinfeld's in True Grit; assured, slightly cocky, and more than able to hold his own acting alongside Hugh Jackman. It is very much a role-reversal relationship between Max and Charlie, with Max often telling his Dad what they're going to do, his eye on the big picture rather than Charlie's short-term outlook on life. Dakota is fine with this, his way of dictating to his Dad is never forced, and provides a lot of humour in the film.

The design of the film is also really cool. Rather than go with lots of CG robots, all of them were actually built, leading to a production that is very "realistic". Therefore lots of the robot effects were done in camera, which always looks better than anything post-production, and it gives the actors something to react and respond to, leading to a better performance. Of course a lot of the fights would have CGI, but the option was there to use a "real" robot for the slow or static shots. All of the little gadgets are all nicely designed as well, mobile phones and the controllers for the robots; all are very slick and help to place the film in the future, but not too far.

Essentially this is Rocky, particularly the end fight, with one advantage: everyone is a better actor than Stallone, even the giant robots. A fun film with a great dynamic between the two main characters, great design and a big heart. I enjoyed it much more than expected.