‘Steel’ is a feel-good, metallic version of ‘Rocky’

2011-10-10T14:29:00Z ‘Steel’ is a feel-good, metallic version of ‘Rocky’Linda Cook The Quad-City Times
October 10, 2011 2:29 pm  • 

It's as solid as its name would lead you to believe.

"Real Steel" is more than an update of the Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots game familiar to many of us. It's about an estranged son and his father, a man who's been beaten down by repeated failures, a needy boy who finds something he can believe in, and, of course, it's a sports movie, too, because it's sort of a metallic "Rocky."

All of these themes work just fine, even though we've seen them played out before. The action is thrilling, the robots simply magnificent: There's no way to tell where CGI ends and animatronics begin. The illusion is seamless.

If some of you "Twilight Zone" aficionados (I'm one of them) have a sense of déjà vu, you're spot-on. Richard Matheson wrote the original story "Steel," and this was developed into a "Twilight Zone" episode with Lee Marvin. The basic premise of the new movie and its "Twilight Zone" predecessor is the same: In a not-too-distant future, fighting between people is illegal. So robots are used instead.

Hugh Jackman plays Charlie, a former human fighter who is now a promoter with a robot that finally meets its match. Now, Charlie has lost his only means of making a living and he's in debt up to his eyeballs to some unforgiving types.

Suddenly, Charlie's 11-year-old son Max (Dakota Goyo) enters his life. Charlie cooks up a scheme to get some money out of the boy's custody. Meanwhile, Max, who knows what his father is up to, ends up being stuck with Charlie for the summer.

Max is in for some hard living and nearly meets tragedy in a junkyard. That's where he finds an old discarded robot that he insists on keeping, much to Charlie's dismay. The two take the robot back to mechanic Bailey (Evangeline Lilly), who manages to get it working again. Max discovers that Atom, his new robotic best friend, may have more to offer in the ring than meets the eye.

This is a movie about renewal, not only for the abandoned robot but also for the parent and child, and Charlie himself. It contains several memorable scenes, including a terrific dancing sequence between Atom and Max. And it has enough action to satisfy every viewer who likes a show that keeps moving.

It's even more fun in the IMAX version that pounds you with the sound. Get yourself a ringside seat.


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