Sunday, 31 July 2016

Real Steel

REAL STEEL (2011) is not a remake, although it feels like one, partly due to the previous adaptation of Richard Matheson’s story Steel for a Twilight Zone episode in 1963, and partly because the producer Steven Spielberg has dealt with fighting robots before in A.I. (2001). Here it is 2020, where clunky ‘Ambush’ is wrecked in a small town bullfight, and the Japanned replacement bot ‘Noisy Boy’, loses its first match so it needs repairs that remote-control operator, full-time failure, and reluctant father Charlie (Hugh Jackman, failing to carry a leading role, yet again) can’t afford.  

Now he’s stuck with custody of his 11-year-old son, for a road movie, with boxing mecha interludes, that everyone involved somehow imagines is an awesome blockbuster super-toy (to last all summer long) that’s oh so cool it’s positively hypothermic. Bailey (Evangeline Lilly, TV’s Lost) is the techie who owns a rundown gym; but she can’t bring any warmth or humanity to a scenario vacancy that’s Robot Jox meets Transformers, with robo-Rocky asides, and all the testosterone thrills of beeping arcade video games. The mind–numbing predictability of its father/ son relationship reconciliation is made worse when the kid’s a winner, dad’s such a loser, and everything is going to work out so the grotesquely Hollywooden, shamelessly tearjerker style happy ending is inevitable.

Director Shawn Levy (CGI–laden Night At The Museum comedies, Pink Panther remake) keeps the machines running on a soda-pop high from scrap-yard challenges to the big leagues of New York arena bouts, while a sentimentalised variant of Terminator 2’s young John Connor mentored by Schwarzenegger’s reprogrammed assassin makeover is turned into utterly cringe-worthy tripe by twin ailments of Disneyfication and Spielbergitis. There’s less room here for ‘characters’ than you get in a Twitter post, and the cliché–magnet plot is blatantly easy to summarise as a one–liner. In a montage-riddled climax, junk bot Atom becomes the best brawler, too self-consciously amazing as a painfully obvious Tin-man/ little toaster that could, who beats all the odds against autonomous champ, the mighty Zeus. Yes, it’s an A–Z of aahhh... aw shucks, or - perhaps, urgh! A sequel is on standby.

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