Reel Steel

Robot Punchout


07 October 2011| No Comments on Reel Steel     by Sean Chavel


The bottom drawer of robot movies. Real Steel conceptually believes that in a future society people will get tired of seeing humans duke it out in the ring and that spectators’ thirst for carnage will be satisfied by clashing robots. People everywhere will pay to watch robots terminate each other in ninety seconds and that thousands everywhere will bet big money on it. Former boxers like Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman, “X-Men”) will invest in everything they have to fix up their fighting machines so they can bet their livelihood on their ability in the ring. I say, a society that becomes fulfilled with watching machines beat each other is a society that will crumble to numbing nothingness. I don’t care if Charlie has a 12-year old son named Max (Dakota Goyo) who needs something to believe in. I don’t care that the movie is intended for 12-year olds. What I do care is whether mass audiences will find something to care more about at the movies than the traits of cold metal.

There is nothing underneath its’ creative tin skull. Besides the technological advances in robots and computer interfaces the world doesn’t look any different in any other way.  What makes “Real Steel” different though from the brain-dead “Transformers” movies is that it’s cutesy, which actually makes it worse than the “Transformers” movies. We are supposed to find Max’s attachment and enchantment to robotics adorable. What Charlie never teaches his son is how to find interaction with other live humans.

Maybe Charlie doesn’t have time, I mean, he has only the summer until he gives Charlie up to new adoptive parents.  Awww, how sad. But of course, Charlie don’t care, at least not in the beginning. He’s one of these self-loathing hucksters that would sell his bloodline for a profit. Rest assured, Charlie is redeemable just enough, otherwise this would be an Austrian drama where Charlie beats his son and gets on top of him to ravage him. Jackman, in his performance, suggests such sociopathic tendencies but holds back, oh just enough, for the family audience. But come on, who out there who saw this movie doesn’t think Jackman comes off way too scary in his early scenes?

That’s the one part of my review where I am really conjecturing off the deep end. But really, the most howlingly awful suggestion of “Real Steel” is that, in the future, daisy duke blondes and lithesome party girls will gather around hardware slugfests and cheer for the measly three minutes that are customary of most matches. And Bailey (Evangeline Lilly, TV’s “Lost”) is the improbably hot robot mechanic who habitually cleans up the mess after every one of Charlie’s incompetent losses. She also has no opinion that Charlie is not an upright guy, that he is one to welch on his debts.

“Real Steel” is so non-ambitious at an intelligence level that it never bothers to ask why people in the future trend the way they do. The message of the movie is that it will be OK that one day we will turn into a world where it’s alright to be playing with console joysticks every day and 24 hours a day. Imagine if “Real Steel” became a sick prophecy? (Oh, how dull!) The human body might as well as become obsolete to the point that there wouldn’t even be a need for our own skeletons. Almost like the obese cases in “Wall-E.”

126 Minutes. Rated PG-13.


Film Cousins: “Batteries Not Included” (1987); “A.I.” (2001); “Transformers” (2007); “Wall-E” (2008).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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