Real Steel - Blu-ray Review

'Having engaged in a rampant bit of child trafficking, Kenton sets about redemption in the time honoured way of building a robot that can hit other robots harder than they can hit him.'

There's a popular perception throughout the world of the Internet that Real Steel is a good film because it's better than the last two Transformers films. The online phrase dictionary need look no further for an excellent definition of the concept 'damning with faint praise'.

Being better than the last two Transformers film is clearly not a state of being which requires a great stretch, but if Real Steel is better than them - and that is still a fact very much open to debate - then it makes a great lurching showpiece of coming over the line in first place; head ducked, diving to make the line, Decepticon right on its heels. Like most of the Transformers films Real Steel is a brainless, soulless mess of poor scripting, awful plotting and thin excuses to stage large pieces of metal hitting each other. That it happens in a ring this time almost makes things worse. There's no variety and the finale is eminently predictably from very early doors.

As appears to always be the case with gigantic CGI creations though, it is the human element of the film which proves the main let down. Every hero has the right to be a horrible person, on the road to redemption but Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) is the most horrible, least redeemed 'hero' we have seen in quite a while. Writer John Gatins appears to think we will merely shrug off the fact that, for at least a third of the film, Kenton's main aim is to secure the sale of his son, Max (Dakota Goyo), to his aunt. That's 'sale' as in, sell. For money. Oh yes and, at one point, he leaves him alone on the edge of a cliff for the night, just after a near death experience.

Rampant bit of child trafficking engaged upon then, Kenton sets about redemption in the time honoured way of building a robot that can hit other robots harder than they can hit him. The film would have you believe that this has suddenly become the coolest pass-time on the planet but the reality - save the final fight, which is admittedly shiny - is more akin to the BBC's ill-fated Robot Wars series; a group of geeks shouting over-enthusiastically at some pieces of metal of suspect structural integrity. Each to their own when it comes to pass-times of choice but its difficult for Real Steel to overcome the 'cool' factor and, too often, we're in an anonymous, desolate location, watching something that doesn't seem to be up to all that much.

Bit parters Kevin Durand and Anthony Mackie are good, Evangeline Lilly's Bailey is notable for being a kind-of properly written female character in a very machismo world, but then gets very little to do, largely in one location. Goyo is occasionally very poor indeed and Jackman's ability to growl out an American accent seems to be going in to decline. A film destined for the scrap heap of countrywide bargain bins.


  1. Liked this film, although admittedly my liking of it came from just how absolutely outrageous the scripting is. Leaving your son in the scrap yard all night!

    It's all a bit 80s Amblin but taken to ludicrous heights which worries me. This is supposed to be an original film yet it doesn't feel like it has an original bone in its endoskeleton (insert used parts joke).

    Final point is I don't think I've seen so much corporate sponsorship in a film ever. The last fight made my eyes hurt, almost assaulted by it

    1. Oh yes, so much sponsorship.

      See your point about Amblin but it was like Amblin with the morals corrupted. As you say, the scrap yard bit is just unbelievable but then, so is the selling-his-own-son bit!

  2. It got me--hook, like, and sinker! Yes, it was predictable. Yes, it made me think of those assault-to-the-intelligence movies that are the "Transformers" sequels. But, dammit, I was genuinely entertained. I was roused by the robot fighting (even though at times they did get a bit repetitive). And I liked the father-son storyline. I can even admit to be being quite moved!

    The dad selling his kid made me feel uneasy, too. It made me question his ability toward becoming a good father. Over time, though, I learned to accept it as a part of his journey in realizing that he was good enough for his son even though he wasn't a perfect parent. The act of selling his son was, in my opinion, meant to communicate how addicted he was to gambling and what lengths he'd go to secure enough money to get his next fix.

    1. I am happy to be entertained by this sort of thing (the first Transformers is still really good) but this just did not grab me at all. Glad you got more out of it than I and yes, that's a good read on the child-trafficking bit, in terms of how it fits with the rest of the film.