Boxing robots. Is this what we’ve come to for entertainment? A movie about boxing robots? I don’t know what’s more disturbing: the fact that there’s a mainstream movie starring Hugh Jackman about boxing robots or the fact that this movie grossed over $100 million domestically and nearly $300 million worldwide! All kidding aside, I really liked Real Steel and I’ll spend the next few paragraphs telling you why. But I digress…I have no idea if this movie came from a comic book, video game or graphic novel (most films do these days) or if it was just some futuristic version of “Rocky”. Still, I’m a big fan of Hugh Jackman (anyone who has embodied the character of Wolverine from the X-Men earns top marks in my book) and given the success of the film, figured it had at least something to offer. It does. You know what it offers? Boxing robots.
Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) is down on his luck. He’s just lost his latest bot to a, well, bull. As he’s trying to flee town, he’s reminded of the debt he owes to Ricky (Kevin Durand). As fate would have it Charlie learns that he’s a father and his estranged son, Max (Dakota Goyo) is something he didn’t expect. Using Max as leverage, Chralie is able to get a good chunk of change out of Max’s parents to be (his aunt and uncle), the only stipulation being that Charlie has to watch over Max as they summer in Europe. Charlie immediately blows the money on a flashy bot, only to lose in its inaugural outing. But, when scavenging for parts, Max finds an old boxer bot that he fixes up. And, wouldn’t you know it, it’s got spirit! Atom (the bot) starts to fight in a few low key matches, but it’s not long before some eyebrows are raised. Is Atom just a flash in the pan or does it stand a chance against the toughest bot of them all…Zeus!
What makes the movie work, aside from the “aw shucks” mentality of Hugh Jackman, is that the movie never once tries to take itself too seriously. As I’ve said several times and you’re probably sick of reading by now, this movie is about boxing robots! How seriously can a movie take itself with that sort of subject matter? The movie is in the vein of films like Rocky and Rudy where you simply have to root for the underdog. Aside from Jackman’s performance, young Dakota Goyo holds his own. In fact, in many scenes, he’s steals the scene. Evangeline Lily (from TV’s “Lost”) is decent in a supporting role. The big question is will there be a sequel? I have no doubt that when a film as financially successful as this was, a sequel is already in the works. I really can’t see why anyone wouldn’t have a good time watching this film, especially if you know what to expect. And if you’re still reading this, then you do.
Video: How does it look?
Real Stel is a new to Blu-ray film and a product of a major studio (two, actually). Having said that, the 2.40:1 AVC HD image is nearly flawless. The film was shot digitally, so everything is crisp and clear. If anyone had concerns that Jackman is actually showing signs of aging, just check this movie out. His forehead wrinkles are visible as are some strands of grey hair (so he is human after all, eh?). What’s more impressive is the detail on the bots. There are so many times when I found myself looking at the nooks and crannies on the actual bot, it made my head spin. Dirt, water dripping off the bot and even the little LED remote control all look amazing. Atom has a mesh shield that “protects” his face, so I found a few occurrences of a bit of aliasing, but aside from that this is a top-notch transfer.
Audio: How does it sound?
Even if I’d never seen this movie, I’d expect a movie of this nature to feature a pretty intense soundtrack. As it turns out, we’re presented with a DTS HD 7.1 Master Audio soundtrack that’s nothing short of spectacular. In a “real” boxing movie, there are hits. In a movie with robots boxing – there are hits! Surrounds are almost constantly active and offer varying degrees of background amplitude and the LFE play a big part in how several of the key scenes sound. Dialogue is rich and clear and we get to hear plenty of Jackman’s character’s smartass remarks in the utmost, uncompressed clarity. For those looking for a soundtrack that, pardon the pun, packs a punch – look no further.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The film has a few different versions, with a DVD, two disc Blu-ray and three disc Blu-ray set with a digital copy all floating around. The three disc set was reviewed here. First off we get “The Making of Metal Valley” in which director Shawn Levy explains to us how challenging the shoot was (this is the scene in which Max finds Atom the bot). “Building the Bots” features none other than Stephen Spielberg giving his .02 on how the effects should look for the film. He offers his insight and compares it to his own Jurassic Park. Evidently his advice worked as the effects in this film are very lifelike. “Sugar Ray Leonard: Cornerman’s Champ” focuses on the great boxer who was brought on to be Jackman’s coach for the film. We get some outtakes as well. Moving onto the HD exclusives we got get a pseudo-commentary with director Shawn Levy in the “Second Screen” option. The DVD, included in this set, does feature the actual audio commentary from Levy though it’s not directly available via the Blu-ray except via this feature. Odd. “Countdown to the Fight: The Charlie Kenton Story” is a mockumentary on Jackman’s character for those that might be interested. Lastly there are nearly twenty minutes of deleted and extended scenes.