By the year 2020, according to Real Steel, human boxers will be replaced by pugilistic robots engineered to provide fans with maxed-out levels of mechanized carnage. But Shawn Levy’s Super Bowl advertisement of a movie, a roughshod cocktail of father-son melodrama and sporting theatrics, also asserts that shameless commercialism will remain a huge part of the on-canvas experience in the future, if the film’s brazen handling of product placement is any indication.
Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman), a once-promising boxer turned hapless robo-fight promoter, is always hunting for his next quick buck, which explains his apprehension toward spending a summer with his estranged Bieber-headed son, Max (Dakota Goyo). Conveniently, his precocious seed also has a deep love for the robo-fighting arts, and the two bond over the crunch of metal on metal, training a scrap-heap sparring machine called Atom to defeat bigger, stronger opponents with sweet-science speed and craft. It doesn’t take long for Levy (Night at the Museum, Date Night) to set Atom on course to clash with Zeus, the top dog of the fight game owned by Jerry Jones-esque Farra Lemkova (Olga Fonda) and walking, pouting Japanese tech-genius stereotype Tak Mashido (Karl Yune).
The actual fight sequences, a mix of CGI, animatronics and real-life consulting from boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard, are an honest blast, but it’s hard to get riled up with innumerable Hewlett-Packard, Budweiser and Microsoft brand drops sliming across the screen.