To determine if you will enjoy Real Steel, you need to ask yourself: Just how much do you enjoy big robots punching each other? Are you willing to watch Hugh Jackman and some kid (okay, a kid named Dakota Goyo) do the robot (with a robot!) and occasionally cry? Can you sit through a dozen “inspirational” montages accompanied by tearful guitar pluckin’? If you can survive all that, you’ll find Real Steel perfectly inoffensive, and the robot-punching genuinely exciting.
Real Steel starts with Charlie (Jackman), a washed up robo-boxer (and ex-normal boxer),looking for a new robot to make him some money in the ring. He ends up getting stuck with his 11-year-old son, Max, who Charlie abandoned as a baby. Max finds an old robot named Atom in a junkyard and together. Charlie and Max start making a name for themselves but have to contend with Charlie’s seedy past and Max’s aunt, eager to gain full custody of Max and protect him from Charlie.
Real Steel is, at its core, a classic boxing movie. It has several training and fighting montages, and Charlie hits rock bottom at least twice before they get a shot at the title. Finally, it has not one but two stereotypical foreign antagonists (a Russian person AND a Japanese person) who are so typically evil it’s funny. Even their robot looks evil. This is a simple movie with a predictable feel-good plot, but in this case it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s still awesome when scrappy lil’ Atom beats the bigger, tougher bots. However, the parts where robots aren’t punching are just dripping with sap. It’s hard to take any character seriously when they’re all constantly launching into elaborate boxing stories, or talking about how Atom really has feelings. Make no mistake: the robot fight scenes are awesome, but they occupy only a small part of this two-hour movie.
The robots themselves look pretty cool, with some pretty convincing CGI, and the future setting is downplayed to the point that the only things different in the future are better laptops and cell phones and the presence of giant robots (although Sprint’s still around judging from the product placement).
So I guess the core question viewers need to ask is how much sap you’re able to swallow. If the action in the Transformers movies was enough for you to ignore the other two hours of movie in those, then you’ll probably enjoy Real Steel. But if you have more refined taste, maybe you should keep enjoying your wine and cheese and skip this robopunchingfest.