The producers of Transformers had a problem. Their money tree, which had so far grossed almost three billion dollars, was coming to an end. The cast and crew were moving on, keen to try something new after the trilogy. But there was still easy money to be made in CGI machinations hitting each other. So, they went and produced Real Steel.
Real Steel can be basically described as Rocky with robots. This phrase alone should be enough to set off warning bells in your head, because it implies a critical misunderstanding of what make Rocky so good. It isn’t a good film because we get to see Rocky and Apollo Creed knock seven shades of shit out of each other. It is good because the audience gets wrapped up in the emotional nature of the journey. Rocky isn’t about the end fight; it’s about what happened to get us there. Trying to replicate this with computer generated bits of metal will never work, because unless you’re the kind of person with a pathological need to pick a side you simply won’t care about the combatants when they start hitting each other. The script does make some cynical attempts to manipulate your emotions, but the whole thing is so poorly pieced together that it’s laughable. The main character (Charlie Kenton, played by Hugh Jackman) is seen trying to kill a bull for money, and then later sells his son Max (Dakoto Goyo). These are the actions of a scumbag, and yet we’re supposed to emphasise with this character in some way. This is by no means an isolated incident, as the entire plot is filled with flaws that don’t withstand a moment’s examination. With the money Charlie gets from selling his son Max he buys a robot. He then immediately takes it to a fight and gets destroyed, so he goes to a scrapyard to try and find a robot for free. If you can do that then why would you buy a robot in the first place? And if you were going to pump your last $50,000 into buying a robot, wouldn’t you try and preserve its life a little beyond 5 minutes?
This is before we even get onto the fights themselves. By the third act Charlie and Max are fighting in the WRB league, a professional league rammed with media attention and sponsorship. The robots competing cost millions of dollars to make. Here’s a tip; if you build a boxing robot with unlimited funds, don’t include a very human flaw like having a clicking shoulder, or forget to put in enough power. Having a robot get tired in a boxing match is one of the most ludicrous plot machinations I’ve seen in a while.
I can think of almost nothing in defence of Real Steel. It could be argued that this is just a piece of entertainment for kids, but when Budweiser sponsors them I’m not sure I buy that. This is a very sorry excuse for a film, and it asks for two hours of your life. Unless your life is a void spent counting down the seconds until you expire, you can think of something better to do with your time.