Thursday, May 31, 2012

Real Steel

Since I talked about one movie I watched on a plane, I thought I'd do another. The first film I actually watched when I settled in for my first eleven hour flight was Real Steel because I'm a sucker for Hugh Jackman.

I think everybody thought that Real Steel was just a movie version of Rock'em Sock'em Robots. Even I made that joke, and I had no idea that it was actually based on a Richard Matheson story. Richard Matheson is a bit like Philip K. Dick, you probably have no idea how influential he's been over genre film and television. His stories are everywhere, including The Twilight Zone (where Steel was originally adapted).

With that surprisingly pedigree for the story, it's becomes unsurprising that the movie itself is so much better than expected. Yes, there is robot boxing. That is totally a thing, and sometimes it is as ridiculous as it sounds. But at it's heart, it's a sports movie and a father/son bonding movie. It's more about family than it is about robots.

In fact, the biggest fault with the film is that it follows the tropes of the underdog sports movie a little too closely. Sure, having the underdog be a robot was different but it wasn't different enough to forgive how predictable the plot can be. Everything moves forward exactly as expected, and they're not even brave enough to go for the one plot twist I expected.*

Which makes it sound like I didn't like the movie. I actually did, I thought it was a good action story. It seemed like a good movie for kids to watch with their parents (not sure what age is appropriate for robotic carnage, but whatever). I thought the acting was well done, for the most part. The visuals were fantastic, and the special effects were a relief. I was expecting really wretched CG robots that didn't look real, but they had the sense to make everything a little grimy so that it would be realistic.

I don't know that it's a movie I'll go out and buy, but it's definitely one that I'll end up stopping on and watching every time it comes on TV.


The twist I expected: that Atom was actually designed by Mashido and that he was an early design that was scrapped because he couldn't make it work quite right but the kid had figured out the way to make it perfect. Or maybe he was forced to scrap it by his sponsors at the time because it wasn't what they wanted, and he always wished he had kept this robot and wanted him back. Actually, the fact that Atom's origins weren't delved into or explored and yet he was a one of a kind robot that could learn? HUGE misstep, and the biggest glaring problem with the whole film.