I was lucky enough to win tickets to the Real Steel red carpet premiere in London on September 14th 2011. The event was attended by director Shawn Levy and star Hugh Jackman who introduced the movie, setting it up as a classic underdog sports story. Jackman even gave a shout out to the Norwich football team (known as the canaries) who were promoted to the English Premier League that season.
I didn’t have particulalry high hopes for the film as boxing robots did not seem like a promising set up. I’m not a fan of the recent Transformers films and imagined this could be an attempt to piggy back on that series success. However whilst I wouldn’t say Real Steel is a total success it does provide reasonably engaging entertainment. The story will be very familiar to anyone who has seen the Stallone vehicle of the 80s Over The Top, just replace the arm wrestling with robot boxing. Like Over The Top, the story centres on a working class guy, just trying to makes ends meet, when his estranged son enters his life. Wealthly extended family frown on the relationship believing they can offer the boy a better life, will these fathers with unusual sporting interests prove themselves adequate parents over the course of the film?
I find it interesting that both films involve simlar class dynamics, though I’m not convinced they are used for anything more than a simplistic short hand to further establish the father characters underdog status.
Hugh Jackman provides a lot of energy and is a charimatic lead, the special effects work well, and the film manages to find a balance between the growing relationship between father and son and the robot boxing. I could see the film being good family viewing, engaging for the kids and passable for the adults.