Real Steel

Real Steel

Film reviews – Real Steel has fighting robots in. And even though it’s a Disney movie it’s still got sharp dialogue. Surely we had you at FIGHTING ROBOTS…

If you’ve seen the ROBOT WARS TV series, you’ll know it never quite delivers on the awesome concept of fighting robots. Sir Killalot always wins, and he looks less like a proper robot and more like a chewed brick. And then along comes the Disney’s REAL STEEL…

There is no doubt at all that the very best part of this pumped-up juggernaut of a movie is the robots themselves, especially the rusted and crushed scrapyard boxing robots who leak diesel like it’s blood and slug it manfully (robotfully?) out in sleazy fighting dens, rodeos and abandoned zoos, all in the name of blue-collar entertainment. Worth the ticket price alone, the REAL STEEL robots clomp. They stomp. They strut. They’re so big they make the whole world shrink a little. You can feel the huge, juddering weight of them in all of their 2,000 pound CGI glory. With muscular names like Zeus and Noisy Boy, these glorious creations work the ring with flair even better than the fleshy boxing counterparts they’ve replaced – and the more battered their armour, the easier they are to love.

But you can’t, sadly, just have an hour and a half of FIGHTING ROBOTS EXCEPT WHY NOT? WHY CAN’T YOU DAMMIT. Okay… you just can’t, okay? Because that would be an MTV video with Jamiroquai in it, not a movie. So the REAL STEEL plot centres on washed-up boxer Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman, who’s forgone the lithe WOLVERINE look to bulk up to a boxer’s physique). Woebegone Charlie is a smalltime robot promoter nudged out of the boxing limelight by his gleaming high-tech successors. Pleasingly self-centred, he has the opportunity to turn his ill fortune around when he undertakes to care his estranged son Max (Dakota Goyo) for the summer. Not for altruistic reasons, thankfully, but for a fat payback from an eminently suitable couple who wish to adopt Max on returning from their Italian Grand Tour.

Although it’s primarily a Disney kids’ film, the third (yes, the third) best thing in REAL STEEL (apart from the ROBOTS ROBOTS OH MY GOD IT’S GOT ROBOTS AND THEY ARE FIGHTING DO YOU UNDERSTAND) is the surprising lack of schmaltz. It’s a proper Stallone-esque ‘gotta love the underdog’ boxing movie. Ooh, and such acid-tongued, bitey dialogue! We didn’t expect that from a Disney kids film! Charlie and Max have nothing in common but genes and go out of their way to express their contempt for each other at any opportunity. Neither of them are remotely interested in family ties, and the only non-financial glue that holds them together is their mutual love of WRB (World Robot Boxing). Together, they rescue robots from the scrapheap and re-invent junkyard mechanics to create robots that just might be able to take on shiny big-league Zeus, a state-of-the-art behemoth touted as being the most unbeatable fighting robot of all time. Well, you can guess what will happen there…

But the second best thing about REAL STEEL? The moves. They are proper boxing moves. That, together with the gritty CGI and rollercoaster-in-your-seat soundtrack, is what makes the robots come to life. Aside from a few creative numbers, the robots move like real boxers and give the fights a brutal, visceral quality. Importantly, the plot hangs on a final battle where the end result seems unlikely – but matches existing UFC scoring systems perfectly.

In all, REAL STEEL is stronger in the first round than the second. The movie’s latter half gets a little heavy on the Disneyfied tugging of heartstrings, the villains are a little colour-by-numbers, and the polished big-league fights in Dallas are rendered slightly sterile when compared to the earlier underground fighting bouts. But hey, what can you do? This is a kids’ movie. Kids will GO MAD for it, and so they should. It’s not as good as GREMLINS or TRON, but it beats THE KARATE KID makeover hands down. If you treat this as a date movie, we promise you’ll still keep your date by the end of the evening. There’s plenty of acid wit for adults to enjoy, and we exited a cinema screening full of adults grinning their faces off. Our collective cheek muscles hurt so much from bared-monkey-teeth adrenal grinning it felt like we’d spent ten minutes in a G-Force simulator.

REAL STEEL? Hell yeah. A deserved blockbuster, with robots so cool you’ll actually fancy them. We gotta tell you… with our own eyes we saw an 8ft tall robot punch a bull right in its face, and for a single glorious moment all my ‘Raging Bull’ snobbery was blown away to make REAL STEEL officially the best. Boxing. Movie. Ever.

And with talk of the sequel focusing on the discrepancy between the underground fights versus commercial big league bouts, it’s clear that Disney knows its blue-collar fighting robots are the real stars of this show.

We’ll pretend the emoshunal bits never happened and give REAL STEEL 4 stars.

REAL STEEL is released in UK cinemas on 14 October 2011.