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Movie Review: Real Steel

I finally got around to seeing Real Steel, starring Hugh Jackman as a former boxer who how owns robots and has them fight to the death (or whatever happens to robots when they are badly hurt).  Sounds stupid?  It is, but the movie isn’t too bad despite the ridiculous premise.

First of all, wouldn’t everyone rather see Hugh Jackman in a movie about human boxing?  Watching him remote-control a robot to victory while he stands safely on the sidelines is exciting and all, but I think watching him box with some element of danger would have been better.  Have you noticed that in Jackman’s action movies, his characters never run the risk of actually getting hurt?  Wolverine heals instantly, and in Real Steel he has a robot do all his fighting for him.  When is he going to play a character actually puts himself in any real danger?  Probably never.

The worst part of the movie is Jackman’s son, whose mother recently died and ends up spending the summer with Jackman on the robot-fighting tour.  You’re supposed to like the kid’s fast-talking, egocentric attitude, but I just wanted Hugh Jackman to punch him in the face (or send the robot to do it for him).  No kid should have that much confidence, and no adult should take a kid with that much confidence seriously.

Again, the premise of the movie is that robots are more exciting to watch fighting then people, and it’s ridiculous.  The whole excitement of a fight is the possibility that someone might get hurt.  There’s something on the line for both fighters, which is the possibility of pain, disfigurement , and maybe even death.  With robots, there’s no chance of any of that happening.  In fact, the crowd is in more danger of getting hurt then the fighters because robot parts are flying everywhere.

Along the same lines, there is no reason to take a movie seriously when the main characters have nothing to lose.  In a movie about fighting, the protagonist must have something to lose besides money.  Hugh Jackman sitting safely on the sidelines while a robot does all his fighting simply isn’t interesting.  There’s nothing on the line, no chance that he might get hurt.  With nothing to lose, the audience has nothing to care about.

Ultimately, Real Steel isn’t a complete miss, and in some ways succeeds in spite of its premise.  Hugh Jackman is a great actor, and keeps you involved even when you know you shouldn’t care.  The special effects work, and there are some very sweet moments.  But overall, a poor premise and sometimes laughable plot keep this movie from being a ‘must see.’

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