Blu-ray Review: Real Steel

Real Steel Blu-ray boxSTUDIO: Disney | DIRECTOR: Shawn Levy | CAST: Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly, Dakota Goyo, Anthony Mackie, Kevin Durand, Hope Davis, James Rebhorn
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 1/24/2011 | PRICE: DVD $29.99, Blu-ray/DVD Combo $39.99, Three-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo $44.99
BONUSES: deleted/extended scenes, featurettes, Second Screen, bloopers
SPECS: PG-13 | 127 min. | Family Science-fiction | 2.35:1 aspect ratio | 7.1 DTS-HD audio | English, French, Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Real SteelDespite the title and all the robots in this movie, Real Steel is really a family film disguised as science-fiction.

Hugh Jackman (X-Men) stars as Charlie Kenton, former boxer turned robot boxing promoter. Things aren’t going well for Charlie. He owes money all over town and his latest bot was beaten up by a bull. And then he gets summoned to court because his ex-girlfriend has died and he now has to claim custody for his son (played with great character by Dakota Goyo of Thor) — a son Charlie hasn’t met.

Reluctantly taking his Max along for the ride, Charlie tries to rebuild his drowning robot boxing business. But it’s Max to the rescue, when he finds an old sparring bot in a dump and believes he can be a champion. They resurrect Atom, but not before they resurrect their own relationship.

The feel-good underdog movie boasts good performances and well-paced direction by Shawn Levy (Date Night). The fight scenes are pretty brutal, but they’re balanced with the smaller moments between Charlie and Max and Charlie and his on-again-off-again girlfriend (Evangeline Lilly, TV’s Lost). Sure, there’s a little corn in the movie. The film’s villains are over-the-top — Kevin Durand’s (I Am Number Four) Texan Ricky is dripping with nasty, and Olga Fonda’s (Little Fockers) Farra Lemkova is reminiscent of Brigitte Nielsen’s Ludmilla is Rocky IV — but that can be forgiven in favor of the movie’s real story.

And in Blu-ray’s high-definition, the film shines. The colors pop off the screen, especially the scenes with the flashy, glitzy robot fights. But the best part of the Blu-ray presentation is the sound. The 7.1 DTS-HD rockets the crunches and stomps and slaps of the bots through the speakers.

The real standouts in the film are the robots, which look amazing. Their making is explored in the featurette “Building the Bots,” included on both the DVD and Blu-ray. An enthusiastic Levy explains that, thanks to advice from the movie’s executive producer Steven Spielberg (War of the Worlds) — who also shows up in the piece — both practical robots and computer-generated visual effects were used. The practical robots helped the actors respond more realistically, so say Jackman, Goyo and Lilly in interviews. All sincerely seem to be in awe of the bot models. And when they’re blended with the visual effects, the audience is in awe too.

Another behind-the-scenes featurette, “Making of Metal Valley,” looks at the production of the movie’s dramatic pivotal scene, when Max disappears over a cliff and is saved by his throw-away sparring bot and dad Charlie. All look like they’re having a great time on the set, and it’s interesting to see the stunt double at work and how all the footage was mixed together to make the brief final sequence.

Our favorite special features on the Blu-ray are “Sugar Ray Leonard: Cornerman’s Champ” and “Countdown to the Fight: The Charlie Kenton Story.”  The first shows Jackman working with the real-life boxing champion — so much fun — and the second is a fictional promotional piece for the big fight in the movie, with Jackman, Goyo, Kevin Durand (I Am Number Four), Anthony Mackie (Night Catches Us) and others playing their characters as they tell about the boxing life of Charlie Kenton. It’s a fun way to extend the movie’s story.

Also worth a look are the deleted and extended scenes, which feature an entire story thread that was cut from the film. It shows another side of Goyo’s Max and a deeper connection between Max and Charlie, which is great to see.

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About S. Clark

Sam Clark is the former Managing Editor/Online Editor of Video Business magazine. With 19 years experience in journalism, 12 in the home entertainment industry, Sam has been hooked on movies on since she saw E.T. then stared into the sky waiting to meet her own friendly alien. Thanks to her husband’s shared love of movies, Sam reviews Blu-ray discs in a true home theater, with a 118-inch screen, projector and cushy recliners with cup holders.