Tag Archives: Real Steel

Futuristic and feel-good, but a bit cliché

Photo from Creative Commons.

“Real Steel,” directed by Shawn Levy, hit theaters nationwide on Oct. 7 and made $27 million in its opening weekend. Produced by Walt Disney Pictures, this film is an action thriller that’s fun for all ages.

Set in the year 2020, this film follows Charlie Kenton, played by Hugh Jackman, a boxer who was forced into retirement after professional boxing eradicated humans and evolved into robot boxing. Robot boxing became the new favorite of boxing audiences because there was more action, and each fight can potentially be a fight to the death, something that human boxing never had.

The film begins with Charlie, who is in major debt after making too many large bets in fights too big for his robots to handle. In the film, Charlie destroys two heavy-hitting and expensive robots after betting money on fights where he is the obvious underdog. Soon, Charlie learns that his old girlfriend passed away and his son, a witty 11-year-old boy he hasn’t seen since his birth, is now under his watch, unless he signs custody over to the boy’s aunt and her wealthy husband.

Screenshot from the movie "Real Steel." Photo from Creative Commons.

After an especially difficult fight, where Kenton loses his $45,000 fighting robot, Kenton and his son Max, played by Dakota Goyo, break into an old robot junkyard looking for spare robot parts. This is where Max finds Atom, an older generation of fighting robots with a rare shadow function. Max spends the night digging Atom out of the muddy junkyard, fixing him, powering him up and cleaning him. By the next day, Max has big dreams for the little robot. Against Kenton’s advice, Max chooses to enter Atom in a fight and the robot from the junkyard starts his journey to becoming the most famous robot in the world of robot boxing.

This movie is a feel-good film all around. The relationship between Charlie and Max is a struggle throughout the entire movie because both characters are bold and stubborn, but in the end it ends up being a story of father-son redemption. They may butt heads a lot, but there are also a lot of heartwarming moments between the duo that give the audience hope for the two and their little robot that could — well, could take a punch, that is. However, this movie would be nothing without Max, the kid who never gave up. Though cliché, as many would claim this film is, his faith gives the audience faith.

Screenshot from the movie "Real Steel." Photo from Creative Commons.

The technological aspect of this movie is very impressive as well; it isn’t overly futuristic which is a nice break from the recent film fads. There are just enough details to make it feel like it’s in the future, but there’s also enough present material to make the movie relatable so no one gets lost in the technology. The script and premise may be a little corny, but the fight scenes are fantastic.

This film is like a mixture of “Transformers” and “Rocky.” Though the sports-underdog plot is somewhat cliched, overall, “Real Steel” is a pretty good movie.

Rating: 4.5/5

“Real Steel” making use of some real steel

"Real Steel" movie poster. Photo from Creative Commons.

It is commonplace for the majority of special effects in modern movies to be rendered through computer graphics, and the movie “Real Steel” is no exception. But the director of “Real Steel“–Shawn Levy–decided to take the special effects one step further, recruiting Legacy Effects to make full-sized robotic puppets to act alongside the actors.

When audiences hear of puppets, they probably think of something akin to the Muppets or the hand-held puppets of Jeff Dunham. The 24 puppets produced by Legacy Designs are full-scale, gadget-filled animatronic puppets. These puppets had over 350 individual machine parts, which allowed the puppets a full range of motion in their limbs. Each of the 24 puppets ended up weighing around 250 pounds apiece.

The puppets could be controlled by any one of Legacy’s operators through a system of remote controls. While the puppets were not used for every scene of the movie, they did play a key role in the filming. The puppets could not be used during the fast-paced combat scenes and were swapped out for their CGI counterparts.

The puppet robots were primarily used during close-up shots with the actors, allowing for greater detail to be added in later with CGI. The additional detail added to the robots during the final stages of film editing were things like cosmetic damage to the bodies of the puppet or electronics. The use of the puppets, according to Levy, allowed the actors to express the emotions and actions of their characters in a more realistic way, which would not have been as easy if the robots had been purely created from CGI.

Screenshot from the movie "Real Steel." Photo from Creative Commons.

Levy spoke with reporters on one of the major setbacks that happened when working with these robotic puppets. Early in filming, one of the robots, Ambush, suffered some hydraulics issues. These hydraulics issues caused the robot’s head to continue to lower until it crushed its own collarbone and its chin got stuck in its chest-plate. After a quick reset the shoot was back up and running.

Levy looks to have successfully fused CGI and puppetry in “Real Steel,” something that is becoming increasingly uncommon as producers are more likely to go the route of pure CGI when offered the chance to create a hybrid of special effects. This is done in favor of the sureness that CGI will come out as intended, where working with something non-computer operated increases the chance for something to go wrong.

Effects like the puppets used in “Real Steel” give the audience and actors something new to enjoy. Film audiences are becoming increasingly picky over the quality and realism of CGI effects, and actors are asking to work with tennis balls as stand-ins for their CGI-created counterparts. Hopefully more directors will do as Levy has done with “Real Steel” and attempt to strike a balance between CGI effects and traditional special effects.