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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Rocky-Sockem Robots (Real Steel)




Looking back over January, it seems I inadvertently turned it into Military Month.

The military is where I came from and a large part of who/what I turned out to be, so I suppose it's natural this sort of  thing can happen without conscious effort. But let's set the record straight: the Two-Fisted Blog is not just about the Armed Forces and/or war. I blog about violence, mayhem and fiery explosions in civilian contexts, too.

The missus picked out Real Steel at Redbox thinking that both our four-year-old and I would like it. She was right about that, but didn't anticipate how much she herself would enjoy it. I watched it once with them and they watched it twice more while I was at work the next day. And she doesn't normally watch movies more than once. So right there I can dub this a fine selection to watch with the family.

While the plot unfolded on screen, I couldn't help comparing this flick to an old Twilight Zone episode about boxing robots. It turns out I had also read the source material from which that episode was adapted: a short story titled Steel. In it, the sport of boxing has become all about fighting robots. The protagonist, a manager with an old clunker robot, decides to fight in its stead when the old rattletrap breaks down for the final time.

Sure enough, a quick Bing search revealed that this movie was indeed inspired by that story. But the adaptation was loose. There were superficial changes, such as the boxers were huge robots that could in no way be mistaken for human beings. But more characters and themes were introduced as well. There was a tiny romantic subplot that your significant other might appreciate. But the main theme had to do with a deadbeat dad who gets a second chance to be a father to his abandoned son. There's no danger of an Academy Award nomination, here, but it's a worthwhile family bonding opportunity.

I wouldn't mind watching it again myself, though the Hugh Jackman character really gets on my nerves for the first half of the flick. (Intentionally so.)

Also, there are suggestions that the sparring 'bot is sentient, but that's never completely established.

One of my coolest Christmas gifts ever as a boy was Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots. When I saw the trailer for Real Steel, I initially thought this was another Hollywood fluff piece based on a toy (or a videogame, though I don't know if there ever was a videogame version of RSR). Even so, it looked cool. And I suspect RSR was an influence for the film makers. Also the familiar impossible underdog theme used to such popular effect in Rocky I and other jock movies (Mystery, Alaska comes to mind).

You not only get to see robots fighting each other, but also a robot fighting a 2,000 pound bull. Tell me that's not worth a buck and change at Redbox.

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