Real Steel (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
January 17, 2012 by Dennis Amith
“Real Steel” features all-out robot action with a compelling and exciting storyline and a film that looks and sounds awesome on Blu-ray! Definitely recommended!
TITLE: Real Steel
FILM RELEASE: 2011
DURATION: 127 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 2:35:1), English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DVS Dolby Digital, French 7.1 DTS-HD HR, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound. Subtitles: English, English SDH and French
COMPANY: Touchstone Home Entertainment
RATED: PG-13 (For Some Violence, Intense Action and Brief Language)
Release Date: January 24, 2012
Directed by Shawn Levy
Screenplay by John Gatins
Story by Dan Gilroy and Jeremy Leven
Based on the Short Story “Steel” by Richard Matheson
Produced by Shawn Levy, Susan Montford, Don Murphy, Robert Zemeckis
Executive Producer: Josh McLaglen, Mary McLaglen, Jack Rapke, Steven Spielberg, Steve Starkey
Co-Produced by Rick Benattar, Eric Hedayat
Associate Producer: Ron Ames
Music by Danny Elfman
Cinematography by Mauro Fiore
Edited by Dean Zimmerman
Casting by Richard Hicks, David Rubin
Production Design by Tom Meyer
Art Direction by Seth Reed, Tino Schaedler, Jason Baldwin Stewart, Jeff Wisniewski
Set Decoration by Victor J. Zolfo
Costume Design by Marlene Stewart
Hugh Jackman as Charlie Kenton
Dakota Goyo as Max Kenton
Evangeline Lilly as Bailey Tallet
Anthony Mackie as Finn
Kevin Durand as Ricky
Hope Davis as Aunt Debra
James Rebhorn as Marvin
Marco Ruggeri as Cliff
Karl Yune as Tak Mashido
Olga Fonda as Farra Lemkova
Balancing gritty action and emotional heart, “Real Steel” is an inspiring and visually stunning film that takes audiences on an action-packed journey. Washed-up boxer Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) scrapes by as a small-time robot-fight promoter as he tries to make a comeback. Against all odds he eventually succeeds—at least in the eyes of his son Max (Dakota Goyo). “Real Steel” is spectacular family entertainment that will have everyone cheering again and again.
In the distant future, men will compete in robot fighting competitions.
Not too farfetched as many people have grown up on stories of humans controlling robots, may it be through animation or video games and with today’s technology of visual effects, why not a live action film?
And so producer Steven Spielberg brings us a sci-fi film with that concept in mind with the 2011 film “Real Steel” directed by Shawn Levy (“Night at the Museum” films, “Date Night”, “The Pink Panther”) and a screenplay by John Gatins (“Coach Carter”, “Hard Ball”) and based on the 1956 short story “Steel” by Richard Matheson”.
The film would star Hugh Jackman (“X-Men” films, “Australia”, “Van Helsing”), Dakota Goyo (“Thor”, “Defendor”), Evangeline Lilly (“Lost”, “The Hurt Locker”), Anthony Mackie (“The Hurt Locker”, “Million Dollar Baby”) and Kevin Durand (“X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, “Lost”, “I Am Number Four”).
The film would achieve success in the box office making over $292 million and a sequel is slated for release for 2014.
“Real Steel” is set in 2020, where robot boxing is the big sport around the world.
Charlie Kenton (played by Hugh Jackman) is a former boxer who’s life is now down in the dumps and he is in severe debt. He owns the robot “Ambush” and competes in unsanctioned matches and exhibitions and one day, he gets caught up in a deal with promoter Ricky (played by Kevin Durand) that his robot can beat Ricky’s bull in a match. And once again, Charlie bets $20,000 that he will win.
While Charlie was leading in the match, excited about his performance, he begins staring at women in the stands and takes his eyes off the bull. The bull gores Ambush and literally tears the robot apart. Now in big trouble and without any money to pay Ricky, Charlie plans to drives off and leave. But while leaving, he is told by two men that his his ex-girlfriend has died and that he must go to a court hearing to decide the fate of his son Max (played by Dakota goyo).
So, Charlie leaves without paying Ricky and escapes to the gym that is owned by Bailey Tallet (played by Evangeline Lilly) and a gym where Charlie trained to be a boxer under her father.
Bailey has had an up and down relationship with Charlie because she is struggling to keep the gym alive because Charlie has not payed her. To make matters worse, Charlie has not been able to make much money in the robot boxing matches and she is afraid that she may need to sell the gym.
Desperately needing a new robot, Charlie is told about a deal to buy the former fighting robot from Japan – “Noisy Boy” but it would cost him $50,000. Desperately in need of money, Charlie needs to find a way to get the money quickly.
While Charlie attends the court hearing, Debra, the sister of Max’s mother wants full custody. She also happens to be married to Marvin (played by James Rebhorn), a wealthy man and immediately Charlie may have found a way to get the money he needs to purchase a new robot. Because Marvin and Debra were planning a vacation to Europe. So, both Charlie and Marvin work on a deal so Marvin can take his wife to Europe for their second honeymoon and that is for Marvin to pay Charlie $100,000 to watch over Max for three months. Marvin agrees and pays him $50,000 upfront and will pay him $50,000 when they return.
Because Charlie has only met Max only once long ago, there is not much of a relationship between father and son and when Max finds out that his father literally sold his son for $50,000…suffice to say, Max isn’t happy. But Charlie tries to explain that he needed the money to purchase “Noisy Boy” and immediately, Max is excited as he shows his passion for watching robot boxing and his familiarity with the robots.
As Charlie and Max head out to a competition in order to make some money, both head to an illegal fighting circuit which is run by Charlie’s friend Finn (played by Anthony Mackie). Charlie is offered to fight in a survival fight but Charlie wants Noisy Boy to fight the illegal circuit champion, Midas. Max is a bit upset with his father because he just got the robot and is not familiar with his fighting moves and already he is fighting with it.
And sure enough, during the fight with Midas, Charlie’s inexperience with the robot and his overconfidence gets the best of him and Charlie loses control of Noisy Boy who is literally decapitated by Midas.
Now losing another robot and broke, Charlie is once again desperate. He brings his son Max to the junkyard where they break in and try to steal robot parts. But in the process, Max falls through a cliff and is nearly killed but is fortunately rescued barely by his clothes being snagged on the fingers of a robot that is was buried in the dirt. His father comes to rescue him and Charlie feeling grateful to this robot that is buried, wants to bring it home.
And sure enough, Charlie brings back an old, obsolete Generation-2 sparring robot build back in 2014 named Atom, a robot that was build to sustain major damage. And while the robot is able to shadow the movements of its user, Max takes the broken parts from Noisy Boy and Ambush and upgrades Atom in order to take vocal commands and also have a spin frame. And Max wants his father to get him a match.
Unfortunately, Charlie is not interested but because he needs money, he is able to give his son that chance but also to learn the agony of being defeated in robot boxing. So, Charlie takes Max and his robot Atom to an unsanctioned outdoor match to take on a robot known as Metro. If Max could beat Metro and last for one round, if he beats Metro, he can win three thousand dollars.
At first, the match isn’t going well for Charlie but because Charlie knows boxing, he begins to coach Max on commands and sure enough, with father and son working together, they defeat Metro and earn extra money. Through the process of attending these events, Max gets his first glance of the World Robot Boxing (WRB) champion, Zeus which is controlled by Tak Mashido and is represented by Farra Lemcova (played by Olga Fonda).
The two continue to use Atom in several matches and they continue to win each time. And because of Atom being an older robot that has been defeating various robots in lower circuits, he has caught the attention of a World Robot Boxing league promoter and is given a chance to fight in a real professional fight against a robot named Twin Cities.
The two are requested to meet with Zeus crew and Farra tells Charlie and Max that they would like to purchase Atom for $100,000. Excited about money, Charlie wants to sell him but since it belongs to Max, Max has no intention to sell Atom and rejects the offer.
As the match between Atom and Twin Cities begins, despite early challenges…the duo once again emerge victorious and as the crowd is excited about this underdog older robot beating a WRB robot, during the post-interview in the boxing ring, Max challenges WRB champion Zeus in a match. Requesting for them to give a nobody a single chance to take on the champ. And immediately, the crowd goes crazy and would love to see a match take place.
And sure enough, Tak Mashido and Farra Lemcova accept!
And as things continue to look good between father and son, unfortunately Ricky has come back for his money and payback for Charlie running away and not paying. And he is beaten by Ricky and his men and Max was nearly injured. Also, because Debra is planning to get Max back as they will be arriving from their vacation, Charlie does not want his son growing up with a failure of a father and get him caught in anymore predicaments. So, Charlie has made the decision to leave Max and have him live with his aunt Debra, especially since he signed away custody papers to Debra.
How will Charlie break the bad news to Max and will the match between Atom vs. Zeus ever place?
“Real Steel” is presented in 1080p High Definition (widescreen 2:35:1) and is a film that looks great on Blu-ray! I loved the fact that Spielberg suggested Director Shawn Levy to have robots created for this film which allows a bit more believability for its actors because they have something visual to act with. But there is a tremendous amount of detail especially with the robots from Atom having layers of mud on him, the sheen and the lights that emit from the Japanese robot Noisy Boy, detail also on the visual effects for the computerized controller or monitors and the action sequences of seeing pieces of metal flying when the robots are hit.
And the amount of detail also can be seen with the talent as the grime on Max can be seen with clarity during the Metal Valley scene, the outdoor sequences are vibrant with colors and even during the nighttime sequences, black levels are nice and deep, didn’t see any crush. I didn’t notice any visual defects, artifacts or any problems with video.
“Real Steel” looks fantastic!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Real Steel” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DVS Dolby Digital, French 7.1 DTS-HD HR, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound. The lossless audio track definitely plays a significant role in this film. First, the ambient noise can be heard in scenes such as outdoors with the noise of the city and cars being heard around you but once you get into those scenes that involve robot boxing, the soundtrack becomes immersive! From the audience being heard all around you, to the sounds of music and other audio effects that relate to the robots coming from the surround channels but also plenty of LFE, including it’s musical soundtrack with hip hop tracks with solid bass.
From the scene showcasing Noisy Boy for the first time to the various fights that involve Atom, especially versus Zeus, the lossless soundtrack becomes immersive. Dialogue is crystal clear, surround channels, LFE…this film really delivers in audio and sounds fantastic on Blu-ray!
Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.
“Real Steel” comes with the following special features:
- Real Steel: Second Screen – Ringside with Director Shawn Levy – This feature allows you to watch while the film is showing and watch on an iPad or computer.
- Countdown to the Fight – The Charlie Kenton Story – (13:51) An extended storyline leading up to the fight against Zeus as Charlie Kenton and those who know him are interviewed about this story of being a middleweight boxer and how he and his son with Atom are about to take on the WRB champ, Zeus.
- Making of Metal Valley – (14:14) Director Shawn Levy and his crew discuss the challenges of filming the “Metal Valley” scene.
- Building the Bots – (5:38) Legacy Effects talks about continuing Stan Winston’s work of creating robots for this film and how Steven Spielberg gave Director Shawn Levy advice to have robots created for the film.
- Sugar Ray Leonard: Cornerman’s Champ – (6:18) Sugar Ray Leonard talks about training Hugh Grant for the boxing sequences and behind-the-scenes look at the training.
- Deleted and Extended Scenes – (17:40) Featuring an extended: Meet Ambush Scene and the deleted storyline titled “Butterfly” which is the emotional storyline about Max and his father discussing his mother which was removed from the final cut of the film.
- Bloopers – (2:38) Featuring outtakes from “Real Steel”.
“Real Steel” was a film that people loved or disliked. Some felt it was the modern-day “Over the Top” (the 1987 film starring Sylvester Stallone) and others who were fascinated by the underdog storyline and visual effects featuring big robots.
For me, I absolutely enjoyed this film. When I was younger, I would compete with other children in wind-up robot toys that would fight in makeshift boxing rings made with wood, nails and rubber bands, to reading comic books and collecting toys featuring “Shogun Warriors” and “Transformers” as well as watching the cartoons. And my passion of robot fighting had never ceased as even as an adult as I continued playing the Japanese “Super Robot Taisen”, “Virtual On” and various Gundam and Macross robot fight video games and there is no doubt that these games have continued to become popular to a fanbase who enjoy robot (mecha) battles.
So, “Real Steel” was a film that I watched with my nine-year-old and both of us enjoyed it.
For one, “Real Steel” is visually cool to look at with its many robots (one thing that Steven Spielberg emphasized was for actual real robots to be created and thus Legacy Effects was responsible about two dozen of them) and of course, with the film taking place in 2020, you have the cool crystal display futuristic monitors and the control devices for these robots. While visual effects and set design were absolutely wonderful when it comes to creating Metal Valley, it also helps to have a solid storyline to back it up.
Sure, there is a similar style between father and son like the 1987 film “Over the Top” but for “Real Steel”, but not much was focused on father trying to get closer to the son. The film focused on the action, and father and son getting closer through their experience of traveling on the robot circuit. Included in this Blu-ray release is actually a scene cut from the film that would have introduced the emotional connection between father and son, which I did enjoy but understand within the context and the tone of the film of why it was removed for the final cut.
Yes, the son teaches father a lesson storyline is intact and yes, it is rather cliche but the film has a compelling story, but when it comes to these films, it’s not a deep storyline that many people are expecting… it’s the action that people come to watch a robot boxing film. And “Real Steel” manages to have a pretty enjoyable storyline and wonderful robot action scenes.
Steven Spielberg who learned a lot from his producing work for “Transformers” learned that people love these films for the action but also gave director Shawn Levy some solid advice and also let the director and the crew become creative for this film. This is where “Real Steel” delivers strongly is its action and visual effects and because real robots were created instead of doing everything on the green screen, it gave Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo and Evangeline Lilly a robot to work from visually for their performance. Director Shawn Levy managed to bridge the gap between his actors and its mecha environment. And as for the robot boxing matchups, these robot boxing matches were simply a joy to watch.
For parents wondering why the film is PG-13 and if it’s worth showing to their children, there is one scene that probably drove this film to a PG-13 rating is when the character of Charlie Kenton is caught by one of the men he owes money too and knowing that his son would be his weakness, one of the men holds his son (who is struggling to get out of the hold) while Charlie is being beaten and kicked. It’s not a long scene but still, I can understand how censors would make this film a PG-13 because a child was involved in that sequence. So parental guidance is definitely suggested for that scene but other than that, there was no other scene that parents have to worry about. My son absolutely loved the film but the only part that he didn’t care for is the short romantic scene featuring Hugh Jackman and Evangeline Lilly’s characters kissing, which my son asked me if I could fast forward past that scene.
As for the Blu-ray release, “Real Steel” delivers in picture quality and also fantastic audio and there is also a good amount of special features that are included with this release.
Overall, I can easily recommend “Real Steel”, for its storyline, its visual effects, awesome action and of course, the cool looking robots. But this is definitely an action film that also looks and sounds great on Blu-ray and a film worth recommending!
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