Bots-Knuckle Bots, care isi arata batalia in ringul de box (Publicat 2011)

Recenzie de film | ‘Otel adevarat’

Atom, stanga, un robot aproape uman, il provoaca pe Zeus, campionul, intr-o scena din „Real Steel”. Credit … DreamWorks Pictures

Otel adevarat
Regizat de Shawn Levy
Actiune, Drama, Familie, Sci-Fi, Sport
2h 7m

You can only imagine the hyperbolic win-win pitch for “Real Steel” that brought this robot boxing movie to the screen: “Transformers” meets “E.T.” meets “Rocky” meets “The Champ,” starring Hugh Jackman of “X-Men” and directed by the “Night at the Museum” hotshot, Shawn Levy. Those are the supposedly surefire selling points behind this entertaining, something-for-everyone contrivance, set in the near future and embellished with flagrant product placement for Dr. Pepper.

An underdog drama with clanging metal-on-metal action, “Real Steel” feels scientifically programmed to claw at your heart while its battling robots, which have a semblance of human personality, drum up your adrenaline. That said, I’m not sure that the movie itself has more than a semblance of a heart.

One thing missing is a genuine love story, although “Real Steel” throws in a perfunctory romance between Mr. Jackman’s Rocky Balboa-like character, Charlie Kenton, and Bailey (Evangeline Lilly), his former sweetheart who owns a boxing gym that doubles as a robot workshop. Charlie is a down-and-out former boxer turned sleazy fight promoter on the underground robot boxing circuit in a world where machines have replaced humans as prizefighting combatants.

The E.T., or R2-D2 character, is a slender, blue-eyed almost-human robot of an earlier generation named Atom, rescued from a junkyard and adopted by Max (Dakota Goyo), Charlie’s estranged 11-year-old son. At one point Max, a video game maniac, swears to his new toy, “Your secret’s safe with me.” We never learn that secret, but the boy and the machine seem to have a telepathic understanding.

Charlie is a nasty piece of work who reluctantly agrees to look after Max after the boy’s mother dies. He refuses to do so, however, until the husband of Max’s Aunt Deborah (Hope Davis), his official caretaker, slips him a wad of desperately needed cash. The smart, aggressive Max is furious that he was “sold” and gives his father a hard time in the first weeks that his guardians are on a vacation in Europe.


Hugh Jackman as a fight promoter in the film.Credit…Greg Williams/DreamWorks Pictures

Because Charlie is a much colder fish than the lugs played by Sylvester Stallone and Mickey Rourke (I would have preferred Russell Crowe or the younger Mel Gibson as Charlie), the character is a bit of a problem for the film. Even after he warms up and becomes an enthusiastic dad who defers to his son, he is more shark than cuddlesome papa bear.

Despite Mr.

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Goyo’s winningly feisty performance, the movie belongs to the Transformer-like bots, surrogates for their owners, who operate them by voice-activated remote control. These bouts offer a disturbing picture of the modern human-machine relationship, in which people are relegated to the sidelines.

The bloodthirsty (or, I should say, scrap-metal-thirsty) crowds that go berserk don’t seem to notice the difference. Violence, after all, is violence. That fighting is as viscerally exciting when practiced by machines as by humans is one of the movie’s subliminal messages. The matches are high-tech, post-Nascar demolition derbies.

“Real Steel” is based partly on Richard Matheson’s 1950s short story “Steel,” which was later adapted into an episode of “The Twilight Zone,” starring Lee Marvin. The movie’s story is credited to Dan Gilroy and Jeremy Leven, its screenplay to John Gatins. All things considered, it is a well-wrought piece of entertainment, confidently paced, although its necessary subplots are little more than dutiful filler sandwiched between fight sequences.

As you watch the robots pummel one another — they range from 7 feet 6 inches tall to 8-foot-5 and have names like Ambush, Midas and Noisy Boy — you have the same slightly sickening feeling as when watching humans beat one another to a pulp. That old question about brutal combat, mortal or not, arises: why is it necessary?

The robots are cartoon characters, more like professional wrestlers than like boxers. One of the most formidable is a two-headed bot named Twin Cities.

Because Atom has a special feature called “the shadow mode,” in which he pantomimes human movement, the boy and his toy develop a crowd-pleasing dance act as a prelude to the smash-’em-up contests. As Charlie prepares Atom for the ultimate duel with a stomping, green-eyed monster named Zeus, it is Max’s bright idea that Charlie pull himself into fighting shape and guide Atom by pantomime from outside the ring. Charlie finally has his chance to be the champion he never was.

As much as “Real Steel” is an escapist pop confection, it forces you to consider the evolving relationship between humans and machines at a time when robots are replacing people in the workplace and in war. The movie doesn’t question our ever-deepening love affair with technology and foolish trust in it. As increasing numbers of people are kept mobile through spare parts, whether flesh, plastic or metal, we are ourselves becoming more droidlike every year. Behind it all is a collective fantasy of invulnerability, omnipotence and eternal life. “Real Steel” at least acknowledges that machines require maintenance to be superhuman.

The movie ultimately leaves you simultaneously exhilarated and tainted with the suspicion that you’ve been had: that “Real Steel” is itself a product of artificial intelligence, with no real humanity.

“Real Steel” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). Some violence and intense action.


Opens on Friday nationwide.

Directed by Shawn Levy; written by John Gatins, based on a story by Dan Gilroy and Jeremy Leven and the short story “Steel,” by Richard Matheson; director of photography, Mauro Fiore; edited by Dean Zimmerman; music by Danny Elfman; production design by Tom Meyer; costumes by Marlene Stewart; produced by Mr. Levy, Don Murphy and Susan Montford; released by DreamWorks Pictures. Running time: 2 hours 8 minutes.

WITH: Hugh Jackman (Charlie Kenton), Dakota Goyo (Max Kenton), Evangeline Lilly (Bailey), Anthony Mackie (Finn), Kevin Durand (Ricky), Hope Davis (Deborah Barnes), James Rebhorn (Marvin Barnes), Karl Yune (Tak Mashido) and Olga Fonda (Russian Robot Owner).