Get ready to have your sons/nephews/classmates/local neighborhood kids going gonzo for Real Steel, the latest lame cinematic statement from that motion picture antichrist, Shawn Levy. As the man responsible for the reprehensible Night at the Museum films, as well as the equally awful Pink Panther remake, his mangled Midas touch remains intact. Though horribly uneven and spotty in both an action and/or adventure sense, this otherwise cracked crowdpleaser will have those prone to snips and snails and puppy dog tails running to their local Wal-Mart to lap up the latest battling robot action figures. And when the video game comes out - especially for the motion control possibilities of the Wii and Kinect - a whole new generation of console coach potatoes will be born.
But perhaps the most appalling thing about this supposed slice of future shock is its lack of forward thinking. This is a world where several products that we know today - Dr. Pepper, ESPN, Nokia - still exist, where the advances we wanted for 2001 are still nowhere to be seen 26 years later (the movie is set in 2027, it seems). The planet is not more multicultural, white people appear to still be the majority, and robots have reached the point where they can mimic human fisticuffs - but yet they aren’t used as a labor or time saving force. Indeed, it’s as if the script, supposedly partially based on Richard Matheson’s short story, forgot that it was set sometime in the not too distant future and simply fudged a few tech geek tweaks.
So along with learning what it feels like to waste $10.50 at the local Cineplex, here are the top 10 things we learn about 2027 in Real Steel. Most of them are obvious. A few are fascinating. All become part of this movie’s lunatic lameness, beginning with the backdrop:
Whenever our former pro pugilist, Charlie Kenton, goes cruising across America on his various get rich via robot boxing schemes, he has the roads all to himself. Long stretches of highway and byway pass without a single vehicle along the horizon. Even when he enters a big city like Atlanta, he has the streets to himself. About the only place we find people? The massive sports arenas where the bouts take place…or the abandoned zoo where such underground matches also occur.
Whenever a character pulls out his or her trusty communication device to call up a roadmap, web search, and in dire situations, a phone call, their device looks like a sheet of glass with random metal pieces adorning its front. Imagine a tablet made out of doll house window and festooned with proto-Apple accessorizing, and you get the idea. Can’t imagine that they withstand the impact of a drop from several feet…or a stiff breeze.
When Charlie finally allows his abandoned son to fight his scarp heap robot in a major contest, he makes it very clear that the boy needs to work on a outer ring routine to get paying customers jazzed up about his junk pile. Watching him shuffle around one day, he suggests a bit of dancing. So naturally, when the lad gets a chance to strut his pre-pubescent stuff, he looks like a double for a certain 2011 tween icon. It’s hard to say what’s more nauseating - the kid copping moves from the Biebe…or the robot mimicking every move precisely.
For years now, Ultimate Fighting has argued that it is more popular than regular boxing…and it has a point. After all, no one knows who the latest heavyweight champion is, but everyone knows Kimbo Slice, right? Apparently, by turning the former king of sports into a vague video game using oversized controllers and 10 foot tall toys, the homoerotic element of mixed martial arts is nullified, resulting in a new fascination which has little to do with sweaty, muscled men rendering each other horizontal until one gives up in submission.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong online. Please consider a donation to support our work as an independent publisher devoted to the arts and humanities. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times where advertising no longer covers our costs. We need your help to keep PopMatters publishing. Thank you.