Saturday, October 8, 2011


Science, forget about flying cars and that cure for common cold and please get cracking on making robot prize fighting a reality. ROBOTS! PRIZEFIGHTING!  You'd think that sort of thing has universal appeal, but Rotten Tomatoes' verdict on Real Steel is, "Silly premise notwithstanding, this is a well-made Hollywood movie."


Which part of 8-ft monsters of steel beating the shit out of each other (occasionally in slow-mo) for our entertainment is a "silly" premise? I'd pay good money to make this happen. So stop douching out on us, RT.

The year is 2020 and robots have replaces humans in the boxing ring. Hugh Jackman is a small-time robot promoter (beater-upper? handler? guy who controls the remote control  for the fighter-bots?) who was once an almost-boxing champion before robots replaced him and his ilk. Troubled with financial issues and a thoughtless approach to bot-boxing, he leads a hand-to-mouth existence till his illegitimate son is foisted on him. His son turns out to have that same stubborn streak and passion for boxing as him. The kid finds an ancient robot (Atom) in a junkyard, which Jackman reluctantly enters into underground boxing matches and surprise, surprise, Atom turns out to be the Seabiscuit of boxing robots with a talent for taking a proper beating and then giving it back good. In the process, Jackman and kid do some serious father-son bonding.

I know, this whole career-oriented/macho man forced to care for a smart alec child theme is trite [The Game Plan (2007), The Pacifier (2005), Daddy Day Care (2003), Big Daddy (1999), Liar Liar (1997), Mr. Nanny (1993), Fatherhood (1993), Kindergarten Cop (1990)]. Besides, apart from the Fannings, precocious children in film are a vile, vomit-inducing group.  Which is why a normal little kid who is stubborn, curious, rude and constantly ODs on comic books and soda makes for a nice change. Also, can we take a moment to pause and reflect on that buff, aviator-rocking hunk of yumminess called Hugh Jackman?

It's not like anybody is going to read this caption anyway.

There was a long queue to do this. Worth it.

Okay, where were we?

Obviously, Real Steel didn't have the greatest character development ever seen on film, and if one were to nitpick, one could find a plot hole or five.  Hugh Jackman and son hate each other because he's just a money-grubbing rascal and then, when the climax showdown scene is 3 minutes away, he suddenly begins to care. We've seen this a dozen times. It is also pretty ridiculous when a small child uses only his powers of cuteness and sugar high to indulge in complicated robot-hot rodding (alas, if only 10 cans of Dr. Pepper could give one an epiphany). And yes, since all evidence suggesting that the robots were just machines slightly superior to your washing machine, it is highly improbable that Atom magically became self-aware, especially when they give us no reason for this to be a possibility.

I thought that little background they give us about robot-boxing was interesting. When robots initially replaced humans in boxing games, they tried to keep them as human-looking as possible, but then they realised that people didn't want to see uncanny valley residents. People wanted proper violence and lots of it, so robots started losing their human resemblance and began to mimic Transformer toys.  Atom, being an older-generation robot, still bore resemblance to humans (think Eva meets Bumblebee). But is that what really draws us to underdogs? Their human qualities?  Noisy Boy was a really cool robot and Zeus was easily the greatest robot ever created, and yet, it was Atom with his tenaciousness, robot dancing, big blue eyes (which make you wince every time he's hit) and his "human" style of bot-boxing, that ended up as the favourite. So I understand why they needed Atom to be self-aware. Otherwise, it's like asking the audience to root for a refrigerator. I just feel that the film would have worked better if they had left it a mystery: just the kid's desperate yearning for Atom to be self-aware or implied that Atom's self-awareness was just his imagination, but never actually showed us a self-aware Atom. A self-aware robot pretty much destroys the very foundation of the film and leaves too many unanswered questions. But if they had built on humanity's desire to name our ships, cars and computers, give these bits of metal and plastic emotional value and even assign them human qualities, this film  could have struck a very deep chord, without becoming silly.

All said and done, I immensely enjoyed this movie.  Perhaps it was because it wasn't just another lazy attempt to make money. Or perhaps it was the beautifully captured shadow boxing scenes. Or perhaps it was that ridiculously awesome soundtrack. But most likely it was the utter gorgeousness of Jackman's muscly forearms.


  1. I still thought the child was annoying. And also, vaat about dos russian chicks vit dere amasing akh-sents? I also thought Atom looked like Bicentennial man/beefy cousin of C3P0.

    (Hugh Jackman DID rock those aviators.Sigh.Gasp)

  2. Dude, those robot dancing scenes were DAMN cute.

    Andh pliss, ze eevil voman in a movie can only originate from ze eestern blok. vots de fun odervise?

  3. so there's absolutely NO reason this movie should work. and yet, I'm almost jumping out of my seat through the final 20 minutes, actually cheering with the movie crowd.

    and that bit where hugh jackman does his pookie face to bailey and dares her to resist it?

  4. I KNOW, RIGHT? I mean, it is formulaic, but my god, I've never cheered so hard for a bit of metal and wire.