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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Nov 2, 2011

Real Steel Movie Review

WE WEREN’T that hot to watch “Real Steel” as we’re not fond of robot movies. But we do like Hugh Jackman and when we had some free time in between attending presscons, we went to see it and we’re glad to report that it’s a real crowd pleaser. Set in the not too distant future when boxing between men has been forbidden and only robots can do it, Hugh plays Charlie, a former boxer who’s jobless and owes money to various people. The robot he operates has been reduced to scrap metal.

Things get complicated when the son he abandoned as a baby, Max (Dakota Goyo), now 11, appears after his mom died. Max’ aunt (Hope Davis) wants to adopt the boy with her rich husband (James Rebhorn.) Charlie is willing to sell his rights as a dad for $100,000. But first, the couple would take a vacation in Italy and Charlie has to babysit for Max during the summer. Charlie gets the money, buys a new robot, and you know it’s bonding time for him and his son.

The film’s first half is kind of slow paced but the story gets more involving when Max gets his own robot in the junkyard, Atom. With the help of Charlie’s friend, Baiely (Evangeline Lilly of “Lost”), Atom comes to life. He’s the underdog as he’s small and old, meant to be more of a sparring partner for bigger robots. But he becomes Max’s best friend and he urges his dad to book a fight for Atom. He wins his first match and the succeeding ones, too. The film’s climax shows him fighting the current robot champ, Zeus, who’s definitely bigger and stronger.

It’s a David and Goliath match indeed and Atom could very well be the Rocky of robot fighters. The robot boxing sequences are all well staged but even more involving is the development of the father-son relationship and the friendship between the boy and his robot. We know our sentiments are being manipulated but we don’t mind and, in the end, we root and cheer not only for Atom but for Charlie and Max as well.

Director Shawn Levy, who excels more in comedies like “Night at the Museum” and “Date Night”, succeeds in winning our sympathy for the father, son and their robot, making it a real feel good movie. Hugh Jackman is perfectly likeable for the role of the dad and has excellent chemistry with the adorable Dakota Goyo as the feisty son who matches him every step of the way. The design of the robots is excellent, with Atom looking very much like the underdog he is meant to be. The special effects used to bring the robots to life is truly state of the art, mixing animatronics with motion capture computer generated images in the spectacular fight scenes with great excitement. The movie is a huge set so we’re not surprised if they’re going to do a sequel.