In a nutshell: Robots wars, with a little bit of family bonding.

Popcorn rating: 3/5

Fighting robots. Big crashing metal hulks slamming each other, pounding hydraulic fists into steel chest plates, squeezing skulls, ripping and crushing and smashing each other to bits. Seriously, what’s not to love about Real Steel? The game that is. The imagined World Robot Boxing (WRB) championships, set in a not too distant future where 10ftish robots kick the sh*t out of each other in front of a packed stadium.

Real Steel the film, in which said championship games mark a zenith, isn’t quite as must see as Real Steel the game, but, to be honest, it’s actually not half bad. Based, in part, on the 1956 short story ‘Steel’ by Richard Matheson, Real Steel is set in 2020, a world very similar to today with a few small exceptions – humans have been replaced in the boxing ring by robots, operated by high tech hand held devices or, in some cases, by voice control or “shadowing”. Robot boxing is big business in 2020 and, on the fringes of the sport, is former boxer Wolverine (or rather Hugh Jackman as Charlie Kenton). Kenton earns a crust pitting his old, washed up robots against, well, pretty much anything, until one day he finds himself in a predicament – forced to spend the summer babysitting his 11-year-old son, Max (Dakota Goyo), a boy he doesn’t know, and doesn’t want to. Fortunately, the kid takes to the robot boxing game like a duck to water and soon pop and Max are pitting their tired old robot Atom against the big boys.

And that’s where Real Steel shines. See it on the big screen. The biggest screen you can find, with the biggest audio system and the biggest seats with a bucket of popcorn and a gallon of soda. And enjoy.  Cos this is telly’s little Robot Wars gone Hollywood. Robot battles, no, robot annihilations, are what you want. And that’s exactly what you get, from the opening mechanoid versus raging bull to something that looks like a Disney version of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. For mechs.

Aside from the steely fist fights, it’s all rather humdrum in a pleasing enough sort of way. Goyo is a cute kid with a little bit of attitude and a pleasing lack of sacharrine (thankfully sugar king Spielberg doesn’t have his muddy paws on this one). Then there’s the evil baddies with their sharp bones and funny accents. They’re Russian and Japanese btw, for added nasty. Anyone for a harmless love interest? A Dead mum? A random twist forcing daddy and son unhappily together to bond? Tick, tick, tick. Oh, and of course. There’s Wolverine. With his top off. If you like that sort of thing.

Is Jackman a brilliant actor? Well no, probably not, but that doesn’t really matter because there’s just something so damn likable about him, and he suits this kind of role. Sure, Kenton is a bit shifty, you wouldn’t want to loan him any money for one, but you just can’t help  rooting for him and his shoddy fly-by-night antics. And Jackman isn’t overstated here, he doesn’t ham it up (which I know he can. I’ve seen The Prestige). He’s just well, himself, with a slightly funny accent. And it works. It really does.

Real Steel is an old school family yarn. There are so many cliches (bad boy comes good, wise beyond his years kid, underdog wins etc etc) you kinda get bored counting, but that’s okay. Sometimes you just want to suspend your disbelief and enjoy the usual old schmaltz, happy in the knowledge it’ll all come good in the end.

Action junkie little uns will love this movie, they’ll probably want their own 10ft robot for Christmas (hey, who wouldn’t?). For the adults, there isn’t quite as much on offer, the dialogue is a little clunky, everything slots too easily into place, but come on – this film has massive f**k off robots ripping each other to shreds for your entertainment. What’s not to like?

Reviewer: CurlyShirley


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