By Hemanth Kissoon
Where to begin describing how atrocious this movie is? We are introduced to the future of mass entertainment - robot pugilism - with a fight between a machine and a bull. Err? Seeing an animal getting beat up is not fun, even if it gets its own back. Also, why would a bull charge a robot? Through crummy expository dialogue we are eventually told human boxing no longer cuts it the way robots fighting does. That maybe the case if they had artificial intelligence, were sentient and had personalities. But they’re not – they are remote controlled. It’s like Formula 1 being replaced by radio controlled cars. Who would care about that? There’s nothing to invest in. There’s a reason Robot Wars is no longer on TV. Nothing’s at stake. Atom, the automaton we’re meant to care about, is a little bit alive it seems (though none of his opponents are), why not give him a character? (Actually why not give the humans some characterization too?)
So many questions about the creative choices made in Real Steel arose while watching this lumpen mess. Where is the believability of this new world? When Charlie (Hugh Jackman) and his estranged 11 year old son Max (Dakota Goyo) are getting beat up, why doesn’t Max call Atom to protect them? Why hasn’t the army used them, or the police? Surely these lethal machines need permission to own, and some kind of age restriction to use? Why doesn’t everyone have one to carry their stuff or use as bodyguards? Aren’t there weight categories in the league - why make them between 7ft-9ft tall? When not 20 feet? Why are the stadiums not built to protect the audience from flying metal – or show people getting accidentally hurt in underground fights through collateral damage? Why is Hugh Jackman still using a phone the size of an iPhone? Where’s the other technological advancements? There is no attention to detail. There is no imagination, and no care in telling a compelling story.
We’ve actually been spoilt this year. There has been two cracking ring-set combat films: The Fighter and Warrior. Engaging protagonists and uplifting sentiment combined to make something gripping, coupled together with exhilarating contest sequences. Contrast Real Steel. The lack of any kind of exciting choreography is unforgivable. A jump and punch in slow-mo is the one miniscule bit of style in the whole pic. In an underground fight, where there are meant to be no rules, demonstrated by one cheeky kick, that’s it, real no holds barred. The training sessions are lazy. In all this cheese, we don’t even get a satisfying montage scene.
Hugh Jackman’s Charlie is so lacking in any kind of thought processes, I wonder how he is even in this business. Perhaps Real Steel is being slyly meta; the lead’s lack of consideration is represented in the script and direction. Oh yeah, I like Dr Pepper as much as the next man, but the level of product placement is embarrassing.
The mawkish ending is so false. They even have Charlie’s squeeze Bailey (Evangeline Lilly) and Max crying because of the “emotion”. No brains, a false heart, zero soul, and devoid of thrills, a contender for worst film of the year. What kind of universe do we live in where a director is so bad he makes Michael Bay look inventive?