Real Steel is the current movie that is building the trend of board games as movies. Actually, this movie isn’t “officially” based on the popular Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robot game. It is based on “Steel” a short story from 1956 by Richard Matheson.
Even so, I would like to think that Real Steel is in line with the grand tradition of movies like Clue, the upcoming Battleship, and, of course, the most awesome board game movie of all time: Jumanji.
Real Steel takes place in the near future where the public has grown tired of watching humans engage themselves in boxing and mixed martial arts. They want violence and fighting without boundaries. The solution is robot boxing (obviously) — and it has become the hottest sport of the times.
In the movie, Hugh Jackman plays Charlie, a former boxer who has turned into a money-hungry, unreliable and slightly sleazy promoter. After his first bot gets mauled by a 2,000 pound bull, he purchases Noisy Boy — a kick-ass, technologically sophisticated “Asian” robot. This might be presumptuous on my part, but with the slanted glowing eyes, Asian characters graffitied onto his metal, and his ability to understand Japanese commands — I am just going to go out on a limb and say the bot is Asian.
Around the same time he gets this Asian killing machine, he finds out that his ex has died. As a result, he is forced to take custody of his estranged son, Max (Dakota Goyo), a fearless youngster who needs to keep his mouth shut once in a while.
They both go on the road with Noisy Boy and Max gets bitten by the robot boxing bug after Noisy Boy gets (spoiler alert) demolished in his first fight.
While in a junkyard trying to get spare parts to build a new robot, Max digs up an old robot named Atom and wants to make him, despite his size and lack of experience, a fighting robot. This is the catalyst for the many elements of an ideal underdog story with a Steven Spielberg glaze (he executive produced the movie).
Even though the movie is directed by Shawn Levy, there is a double dose of Spielbergian charm: 1.) Like Elliot and E.T. there is a creature/kid relationship that serves as an emotional core for the movie (Max and Atom) and 2.) Nothing gets resolved unless the family lives happily ever after at the very end — and by this, I am referring to the revived father-son relationship between Charlie and Max. (I didn’t spoil it for you — you don’t have to be Miss Cleo to predict that.)
Along with the two Speilberg-approved plot points, the charisma of Wolverine, the precocious kid, and a non-Lost Evangeline Lilly as Jackman’s love interest/hot robo- mechanic, the movie, with Rocky-esque montages and all, makes for one hell of an entertainment spectacle — and there’s an Asian “villain” to boot!
Actually, the character of Tak Mashido (Karl Yune) isn’t really a villain. His sexy Maxim cover Russian colleague Farra (Olga Fonda) is the diva in charge. He’s more of a Dr. Frankenstein. With his brooding pout and Armani Exchange wardrobe, he is the creator of the almighty and menacing Zeus, the undefeated WRB (World Robot Boxing) league champion that pounds his opponents into metal mulch. Once Atom gets a few wins under his belt, Max gets annoyingly ambitious and publicly challenges Zeus to go head-to-head in the ring. That provides a climactic finale that — and I’m NOT ruining the ending for you — has people calling Atom “the people’s champion”. He’s quick. He’s skilled. He’s small. He’s a robot version of Manny Pacquiao.
A movie like this should be bubbling over with cheese, but with a stellar cast and the perfect cinematic formula, the movie is unexpectedly good. I even managed to bury my embarrassment for Atom and Max when they did their “dance party” entrances to the ring. I even looked past the audience’s eruption of applause to a non-responsive movie screen (a pet peeve of mine). If a movie like this can suppress all of my misanthropic ways, then I can safely say that Real Steel has the ability to suck in all audiences.