Real Steel

Real Steel

(M) WDSHE DVD/BD

Shawn Levy has made something of a career out of making films about deadbeat dads (Night at the Museum, Date Night) so it’s no surprise his latest film is about a dad in need of some reconciliation and redemption.

Sometime in the near future, Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) is a former boxer now promoter in the cutthroat world of robot boxing. Charlie earns just enough money piecing together scrap bots to get from one underground boxing tournament to the next.

Shortly after his latest disappointment at a town fair, Charlie is informed that an ex-girlfriend has died and their son Max (Dakota Goyo) needs a home. Max stays with Charlie while custody is sorted out and together they build and train a championship contender.

Charlie, Max and Bailey the girlfriend form a family and work together to build a robot that mirrors Charlie’s former prowess in the ring. It’s an unconventional but functional family unit and Charlie and Max form a tentative relationship as Charlie learns to fight, not only in the ring but also for Max and Bailey.

There is a lot of emotion and heart in this film (not evident in the trailer obviously) and its themes of reconciliation and redemption are required viewing for most dads and sons.

The careful tone the film maintains with the mentoring and ultimately the loving relationship between Max and Charlie is what gives it a beating heart among the pulse-pounding bouts of robot boxing. And the screenwriters have really articulated the thematic heart of the film when Max says to Charlie “I just want someone to fight for me.”

When Charlie finally does fight for Max, there is a moment in the film where grace and redemption is palpable, perhaps one of the best moments in cinema in 2011, one which you can experience again on the small screen.

Unabashedly a big-hearted sports film, that transcends its subject matter, I found myself so invested in the characters in this film that the fight scenes in the climax had me cheering for the underdog, as well as connecting with its father-son motif.

DVD Special features include:

• Director Shawn Levy walks us through a shot-by-shot making of the “Metal Valley” sequence where Max slides down the side of a cliff to be rescued by a robot Atom’s arm. Shawn Levy explains over the four-night shoot what a collaborative effort this sort of enterprise is.

• Building the Bots is an excellent special feature detailing the construction of the robots at Legacy Effects, which is taking over the legacy of special effects guru Stan Winston (creator of the such iconic practical effects as the original Terminator) who passed away last year. Many of the robots in the film were made from scratch as practical effects which were later augmented by special effects.

• Director Shawn Levy walks through viewers through the film with an audio commentary. His introduction reveals how much he wanted this “robot boxing movie” to be essentially a “underdog gets a shot at redemption” film. From his choice of the music that opens the film, it is clear this would be a retro-futuristic film about relationships that resonate in our lives, as well as being a film about robot boxing.

• On set bloopers reveal the fun that was had on set during the making of the film.

Adrian Drayton

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