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Charlie Kenton is a washed-up fighter who lost his chance at a title when 2000-pound, 8-foot-tall steel robots took over the ring. Now nothing but a small-time promoter, Charlie earns just enough money piecing together low-end bots from scrap metal to get from one underground boxing venue to the next. When Charlie hits rock bottom, he reluctantly teams up with his estranged son Max to build and train...
For more about Real Steel and the Real Steel Blu-ray release, see Real Steel Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on January 19, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Shawn Levy
Writers: John Gatins, Dan Gilroy, Jeremy Leven, Richard Matheson
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Evangeline Lilly, Anthony Mackie, Kevin Durand, Hope Davis
» See full cast & crew
Real Steel Blu-ray Review
A Real good movie.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, January 19, 2012
You've been working with those robots for so long you've become one.
Real Steel is a movie about souls. It's about losing the soul, finding it again, lending one to a lifeless entity that shows a need for one, and ultimately reinforcing the soul's purpose in life. Real Steel is also about bonds, friendship, grit, and determination, all things inherent to man but that are here shared between man and machine with the end result being a stronger bond between man and man. It's also an underdog story -- a classic tale of fallen grace and a return to greatness -- but it's also the story of the "never was" brought to prominence. In all ways, then, it's largely predictable, but that's the very nature of these sorts of stories. Of course Rudy will get on the field, certainly The Cleveland Indians will manage to beat the odds. Still, Real Steel finds a way to lead an old genre in a new direction, telling the double story of an absent father and a scrapheap robot, both discovering through the trust of a child that the impossible can become the reality; that failure is but the first step on the path to success; that hard work, faith, and a positive approach to life can pay great dividends where there was before only the shadow of what never was and could have been.
In the near future, Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) is an ex-fighter who has since hung up the gloves in favor of the remote control. No, he's not a couch potato; he's a human working behind large robotic boxers that have come to dominate the national sports scene. Unfortunately, his robot is totaled in a brawl against a bull. He's as broke as his robot, his kinda-sorta girlfriend Bailey (Evangeline Lilly) -- daughter of his former trainer -- is also financially up against the ropes, and to make matters worse, he's just learned that his ex-girlfriend has died, leaving him with sole custody of his estranged son Max (Dakota Goyo). Charlie just isn't father material, so he agrees to allow the boy's aunt and uncle to take sole custody in exchange for a hundred grand, enough to purchase another robot and get back on his feet. Part of the deal also entails Max staying with Charlie over the summer while his new parents vacation in Europe.
Max is certainly not impressed, but when he learns his father has just purchased Noisy Boy, an acclaimed robot fighter with which Max is all too familiar, he begins to think that the underground robot fight circuit just may be a little more up his alley than Italy. Unfortunately, noisy boy, too, is destroyed in a fight, leaving Charlie with only one last option: search the robot junkyard for spare parts with which he can build a replacement. There, Max literally stumbles upon a buried sparring bot dubbed "Atom." It's worn and torn but still works, and Max takes it as his own. Charlie reluctantly agrees to enter Atom into a small-time underground fight where Max's faith in Atom and Atom's resolve and ability to withstand punishment in a fight are both placed on display. Slowly, Atom gains a reputation as an underdog champion robot. As he rises in the ranks, father and son grow closer, but so too does a bout with the most advanced fighting robot ever created, the dangerous Zeus.
Real Steel might superficially be about awesome special effects and wondrous fight scenes -- both of which are great on any number of levels -- but it's ultimately the film's tender underbelly and story of true human bonding, compassion, and faith that's the real highlight. All of the robotic action is ancillary, at best a means of furthering the story's greater purpose of redemption, family, and trust. Yet all is personified in Atom, a scrapheap robot left to rust and corrode, seemingly gone for all eternity and abandoned because it was deemed outdated, outmatched, out-everything-ed. But this robot, as fate would have it, saves the Kenton family twice, first in the literal sense, the second in a more figurative sense, bringing Charlie and Max closer together just as they threaten to drift further apart. The lifeless machine sparks something inside of its human controllers, a trust in one another and a belief that the impossible and the improbable are anything but. In Atom, they discover that looks, age, history, or even society can't dictate success or failure. That lies in the control of the person who shows the most inner courage and strongest iron will, something that, in this case, nearly transcends both the living and the mechanical.
Indeed, it's Atom's almost-human qualities that make the movie work. In the end, the robot is just the robot, circuits and steel which are controlled completely from afar, but its programed mimicry of human action and ever-so-slight twinkle of understanding, of strength, of brotherhood -- perhaps just evident completely by chance through its outward design, or maybe something truly alive deep down in the memory and wires and pieces -- gives it a very real, very tangible personality, even if it is just a reflection of the outward skills and inward resolve of its human masters. The machine outwardly gives off an almost childlike wonder; its stature says much, but its eyes are truly the window to whatever manmade or metaphorically transferred soul it possesses. The filmmakers have truly accomplished the impossible, giving Atom eyes -- eyes that are but a collection of blue dots -- that convey so much inward complexity even where nothing truly exists, a true visionary marvel that defines the entire picture in those close-up shots of its electronic baby blues. This is the movie's true strength; it makes its audience deeply care about a lifeless robot that neither speaks nor in any way acts of its own accord. It's the transference of human emotion, ingenuity, dexterity, and even love to a lifeless entity that gives both the picture shape and the human characters a bond that can never be broken.
As noted earlier, Real Steel is a special effects extravaganza and a true spectacle of modern entertainment that mixes the real with the imaginary. In a way, the entire movie is like a metaphor for modern cinema, reflecting man's ability to give life to the artificial and seamlessly integrate those artificial entities into the real world. But that little nugget for thought aside, the movie is a pure specimen of 21st century moviemaking excellence. The interaction between the organic and the computer generated is faultless. The robots fit into the movie -- whether in a dusty Texas ring with an angry bull, in a musty gymnasium, or in the middle of the robot boxing world's biggest stage and surrounded by thousands of fight fans -- as if they were real, tangible members of the cast, of which sometimes they are, and sometimes they are not. The picture does mesh digital robots with practical models, though the vast majority of audiences will fail to see the difference. Better, the human cast is strong; there's a palpable, immediate chemistry between father and son, both through the early rough patches and the later reconciliation and bonding. Jackman and Goyo melt into the roles, delivering even performances that show all of the heart the movie depends on to succeed. Director Shawn Levy's (Night at the Museum) work behind the camera is also a real asset; his direction provides a lively spark, a critical sturdiness, and a professional sheen that all round the movie into tip-top shape as one of the most inspiring, entertaining, and family-oriented films of the year.
Real Steel Blu-ray, Video Quality
Real Steel's 1080p transfer is as strong as the movie's robotic fighters. The image features unimaginably strong clarity which aids greatly in fine detail presentation. Real Steal is razor-sharp and very natural; the digital photography rarely captures that glossy sheen and never does the transfer appear flat or lifeless. Instead, this one is pristine from the top down. The detail on the robotic combatants is amazing; Disney's Blu-ray is impeccable, evident with every dent, rust spot, and scratch that give an authentic appearance to the more worn down 'bots, contrasted with the glossy and pristine appearance of a fresh-from-the-crate Noisy Boy or Zeus. Traditional detailing is also breathtaking; the texture of a straw hat, facial complexities, clothing seams, dusty Texas carnival grounds, or the smooth and clean lines of the World Robot Boxing ring are sure to dazzle even veteran Blu-ray audiences. Colors are just as impressive across the board, whether evident in natural flesh tones, Atom's bright blue eyes, Zeus' green accents, or general shading on Charlie's truck or attire. The digital image is largely free of intrusive banding and noise. This is an incredibly crisp, natural 1080p transfer that can stand toe-to-toe with the best the format has to offer.
Real Steel Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Real Steel's DTS-HD MA 7.1 lossless soundtrack is just as dazzling as its accompanying 1080p transfer. Music plays with very good body and a natural presence, whether lighter score or raucous beats. Spacing is natural in every instance, whether the slight surround support structure for music or in the delivery of a wide array of critical ambience, both mood-setting and high energy alike. Arenas big and small -- from the small-time Texas rodeo ring to the packed sporting complex seating thousands -- are supported by an amazingly natural sense of space and structure, effectively putting the listener in the middle of the action, no matter the stage. Natural ambience, form buzzing insects to the sound of steady rain and distant thunder, play consistently and with true, natural immersion. The sounds of the fighting robots are equally wondrous; heavy hits of steel on steel, of twisted metal and crunching parts, play with an unbeatable sense of authenticity. This track handles it all with great precision, never allowing raw volume to interfere with unmatched clarity. Dialogue is steady, whether hushed words or reverberating announcements over the public address system of large sports arenas. This is nothing less than a mesmerizing, highly satisfying track that serves the movie beautifully.
Real Steel Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Real Steel contains several quality supplements. Unfortunately, the audio commentary with Director Shawn Levy appears only on the included DVD disc.
Real Steel Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Real Steel is an exceptional movie that offers good, positive messages on trust, faith, family, and friendship, wrapped up in the guise of a quasi-Science Fiction film set in the near future where man has given way to machines in one little corner of the sporting world. But it's about rediscovering the role of man in any activity, of the importance of a heart and soul and belief in the rise to the top, something that cold, hard steel just cannot and likely will never possess, though it may seem to with the right person at the controls. The film has heart to spare and special effects to dazzle; it's largely predictable, but the heartfelt journey easily counters the foreknowledge of the inevitable. Disney's Blu-ray release of Real Steel features exceptional video and audio to go along with a fair assortment of supplements. Real Steel comes very highly recommended.
Real Steel: Other Editions
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Real Steel Blu-ray, News and Updates
• $5 Coupon for Three-Disc Real Steel Blu-ray - January 20, 2012
For a limited time, Disney's Real Steel website is offering a $5 coupon for the three-disc Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy combo pack of the film. This exclusive deal will last until January 29th on Steelgetsreal.com.
• Real Steel Blu-ray - December 2, 2011
Disney and Dreamworks Home Entertainment will bring Real Steel to Blu-ray next January. This sci-fi adventure takes place in the near future, where sophisticated fighting robots have replaced humans in boxing events. Hugh Jackman (The Prestige) stars as a former ...
• $5 Off Coupon for Real Steel (Expired) - October 28, 2011
While Dreamworks and Walt Disney Pictures have not set the official home video street date and Blu-ray disc details for Real Steel, Amazon is currently offering a special $5 coupon to be used towards the film's pre-order listing. This promotional discount only ...
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