Real Steel Blu-ray Review!

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BLU-RAY SPECS

Release Date: January 24, 2012

Running time: 127 minutes

Rating: PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Audio: English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Descriptive Video Service Dolby Digital, French 7.1 DTS-HD HR, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound

Subtitles: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, French, Spanish

Special Features: “Second Screen” with director Shawn Levy (Blu-ray only), Deleted and Extended Scenes (Blu-ray only), “Countdown to the Fight: The Charlie Kenton Story” featurette (Blu-ray only), “Sugar Ray Leonard: Cornerman’s Champ” featurette (Blu-ray only), Bloopers, “Making of Metal Valley” featurette, “Building the Bots” featurette.

Audio Commentary: By director Shawn Levy

THE SET-UP

In the near future, robots have taken the place of human boxers. After failing as a robot boxing promoter, a former boxer (Hugh Jackman) takes in his estranged son (Dakota Goyo) and uses a discarded robot to get a shot at the title.

Screenplay by: John Gatins

Directed by: Shawn Levy

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THE REVIEW

In the audio commentary on the Real Steel Blu-ray, director Shawn Levy readily admits that his film is basically a sports film, and as such, viewers expect certain tentpoles. That includes setting up the hero as an underdog, the training montage, and the final fight as a climax. To that end, Real Steel sticks to the standard formula, essentially remaking Rocky with eight-foot boxing robots.

Let us be clear: there is hardly anything in Real Steel that you have not seen before. A lot of familiar territory gets covered. What sets the film apart is also what makes most other sports films great: a lot of heart and an underdog story for the audience to cheer for. Hugh Jackman plays a gruff but endearing everyman, and shows some nice range in making an otherwise unlikeable character someone to root for. It seems like Jackman gets few leading roles like this (although I won’t complain about having him don Wolverine’s claws once more), and hopefully this will lead to more complex roles. His acting skills do not get enough credit, at least in my book.

Young Dakota Goyo, who plays Jackman’s son in the film, is a rare talent in today’s Hollywood. He is a child actor who can actually act without being an annoying little brat. He did test my patience when he and his robot dance their way into the ring, but his overall performance redeems him. Evangeline Lilly plays Jackman’s love interest, but is not given much to do here outside of a few scenes. Kevin Durand has a small role as a nemesis from Charlie’s past, and he nearly steals the show with his funny, over-the-top performance.

The robots are a highlight of the film, coming across as more believable (and entertaining) than the Transformers robots ever did. The visual effects, which were Oscar-nominated, blend practical effects and CGI seamlessly. Even in high definition, I was hard-pressed to see the line between real and unreal. When this was initially promoted, I laughed it off (as many did) as a big-screen version of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots. I could not have been more wrong. This is an entertaining, well-made film that children and adults alike will enjoy.

VIDEO AND AUDIO

Real Steel offers some of the best blending of CGI with real actors and sets that I’ve seen in a while, and this Blu-ray showcases that with a fantastic video transfer. It is near-perfect, with razor sharpness and eye-popping colors throughout. The film also features some great cinematography, mixing middle America and classic urban architecture with slick futuristic sets that mix it all without appearing bastardized. This is a great Blu-ray to showcase how good movies can look in high-definition.

The audio is a resounding 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix, that nicely balances Danny Elfman’s excellent music score with the film’s many sound effects, all without drowning out the dialogue. The fight scenes, in particular, feature some excellent sound mixes, all well-separated to provide an enveloping sound experience. You get plenty of clings and clangs as the robots battle, with a low-end that will rattle your recliner. There is even a 7.1 DTS French mix included, and a 5.1 Dolby Digital Spanish mix as well. A 2.0 English Descriptive Video track rounds out the sound offerings.

SPECIAL FEATURES

The Blu-ray is packed with special features that provide exhaustive coverage of the film’s production. Forst and foremost is the “Second Screen” feature, which provides a director’s commentary and online supplemental material that is presented on a laptop or iPad that you must sync up with the Blu-ray via a Wi-Fi connection. The online material was not available before the Blu-ray’s release, so we were unable to review it beforehand.

Viewers who do not have a laptop or iPad can still access some of the “Second Screen” features available on the disc, which includes an audio commentary from director Shawn Levy and a handful of interviews and featurettes that will play at certain points during the film. The Blu-ray will actually pause your film and show you the featurette before resuming the film. It is a fantastic feature, and it gave me more information than I could have ever wanted on the film, and that was without viewing the online material, which includes storyboards and concept art.

The “Charlie Kenton Story” featurette is supposed to be an in-movie promo that tells the backstory of Hugh Jackman’s character. It is a fun little clip featuring all of the major actors performing in-character. Sugar Ray Leonard, who choreographed the film’s fights, gets his own featurette, and he looks like he’s ready to jump back in a ring right now.

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THE BOTTOM LINE: BUY IT OR REDBOX IT?

Ratings

Movie: A

Video: A+

Audio: A

Extras: A

Overall Grade: A

Real Steel is a great sports film with a sci-fi edge and plenty of heart, and it gets a first-class Blu-ray release. Not only is the movie itself given a top-shelf presentation, the disc includes more supplemental material than you would ever want. This is a Blu-ray release done right. Fans of sports films will love this movie, and it is a definite buy for that crowd. If sports films aren’t your cup of tea, I suggest renting it and giving the movie a try. Chances are you will enjoy this crowd-pleaser and wnat to add it to your collection.