I am a huge fan of Hugh Jackman and will usually watch anything that he is in. He’s a man’s man with a soft spot. However, I found myself disappointed with his latest, “Real Steel” AKA “The Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robot Movie.” The reason for my disappointment is not because of the silly storyline, but about the character development.
Technically, “Real Steel” is a sci-fi flick as it takes place in the near future, but it feels pretty contemporary. In the movie, the sport of boxing no longer includes humans. Nope – boxing robots are all the rage in the future. Evangeline Lilly (“Lost”) plays Bailey Tallet, the daughter of a boxing coach who has taken over her father’s training gym. However, since no one human boxes anymore, she has very few customers and is almost broke. Jackman plays Charlie Kenton, a childhood friend of Bailey, and former boxer. He’s not doing well financially either. He’s in a bad cycle of training robots only to have them fail and he is deep in debt with “the bad guys.” To make matters worse, he has just learned that a former girlfriend of his, whom he got pregnant, has died. Max (Dakota Goyo), her only son, has never met his father.
Even though Max doesn’t know Charlie, he shows no fear of the stranger. In fact, he is a bit of a brat. Like so many other movie children, Max is the “smart” one while Charlie is the “stupid adult.” As the audience, we are supposed to find it cute when Max mouths off to Charlie, because Charlie is a jerk and deserves it. However, it doesn’t make us like Max very much.
Charlie starts out in the film pretty much a functioning alcoholic and a horrible role model to Max. Throughout the film, the two supposedly bond and Charlie becomes a better person. He miraculously recovers from drinking and desires to have build real relationships. However, I didn’t see much bonding being done. True, the two go through a lot together, but they seem more like business partners rather than relatives. The only real likable character is Bailey, and she is a pushover. I preferred Kate, Lilly’s character on “Lost.” The ending is terribly unsatisfying as well. Perhaps they makers were hoping to make a sequel to wrap things up. I hope not.
The most enjoyable parts of the movie is the robot fight scenes. Maybe because when they get clobbered, you know that they can be put back together again, unlike, you know, humans.