REAL STEEL: STEAL THIS UNREAL DEAL AND LOOSE IT

By Dr. Craig D. Reid

Screenwriting 101:  It is important to care for or associate with the hero, in that way the audience has a vested interest in the character in as much we want to cheer for him/her and his/her success. Here in lies the problem with Real Steel…we don’t care about the hero because he’s a jerk and so we think he deserves what’s coming to him…failure.

We also don’t associate with the hero unless we’re the kind of people that are selfish, don’t care two bits for our sons and have no redeeming qualities.  In as much as there are a lot of these kind of people out there, I’m willing to bet there are more people with moral character in this country than not.

Biggest shock?

No not the electricity that sparks out from the pummeled bodies of defeated robots but that Steven Spielberg has once again put his name behind a failure film for the second time this summer, which also stars a huge A-list actor in Hugh Jackman (you’ll all recall the flop Cowboys and Aliens with Daniel Craig several months ago). The dialogue is convoluted, the son estranged from the father motif is predictable as well as beaten to death, the movie feels forced and it’s just darn frustrating to watch.

Let’s get to what the story is about…at least what Dreamworks wants to you buy and I quote, “Real Steel is a gritty, white-knuckle, action ride set in the near-future where the sport of boxing has gone high-tech. Hugh Jackman plays Charlie Kenton, 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 (Dakota Goyo) to build and train a championship contender. As the stakes in the brutal, no-holds-barred arena are raised, Charlie and Max, against all odds, get one last shot at a comeback.”

Deja vu…so let’s get to what the story is really about…a boy and his bot, not to be confused with a boy and his bot-fly, which would mean that it’s a parasitic relationship where only one member of the relatioinship benefits. However, this film could be part parasitic since only the filmmakers and actors benefit with fat paychecks and the audiences are the hosts that suffer.

Although I admit having Atom have some kind of shadow program where he can copy the movements of who’s ever controlling him does work in some scenes.  But this gets more cheesey than a store bought pizza that tastes great if you add on an extra pound of mozzarella prior to cooking.

To bring in that heart tugging E.T. moment, Spielberg and company decided that this shadow program idea was somehow inferring or trying to fool  the audience into thinking that Atom  is a special robot that has some kind of emotional connection with Max as Max blurts, “Don’t worry your secret is safe with me.” What? Huh? Oh, I get it, this is a robot with feelings and is loyal to his new master Max.  

Max and Atom even do the robot dance together, which is kind of cute. So this is why we must care more for Atom and feel sad for the robot when he gets the nuts and bolts beaten out of him because now we know it must hurt Atom; he’s more human than what we thought before. He has feelings and love for Max. Heck, I think I may have seen Atom leaking oil from his eyes…could it be…tears.

Instead it is the audience that is going to be in tears as they wont believe they got suckered into a film that could have been entitled, Rockybot. Even one of the female owners of Rockybot’s main enemy Zues, has a fake Russian accent akin to Brigitte Nielsens’ Rocky IV (1985) wife of Drago character. And during the final fight between Atom and Zues, yes, you will here music that sounds like something out of that memorable fight between Rocky and Drago. 

Watch for that very submlinal shot of an albatross flying through screen. What does that mean? Sailors say it is doom for the ship at sea when they see the bird. What does it say about the film? Well, certainly at the bottom of Spielberg’s cinematic peck order of movies.

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