OK, I missed this in the theaters but heard OK things about. Heard it was worth a viewing, heard it was what you might expect it to be, well... they were right. However...
I completely loved this film!
Yes, it is Rocky
with robots. Yes, it was a sappy story of a guy connecting with his long abandoned son. Yes, it was a movie about a scrappy upstart rising to take on the impossible. I didn't care. I just didn't care. I loved it. There is a reason that kind of story is told over and over, its a good story!
For anyone that doesn't know the briefest synopsis thanks to RedBox.com..
In the near-future where the sport of boxing has gone high-tech, Charlie Kenton, a washed-up fighter loses his chance at a title when 2000-pound, 8- foot-tall steel robots take over the ring. Now nothing but a small-time promoter, Charlie earns just enough money piecing together low-end bots from scrap metal to get from one underground boxing match to the next. When Charlie hits rock bottom, he reluctantly teams up with his estranged son Max to build and train a championship contender. As the stakes in the brutal, no-holds-barred arena are raised, Charlie and Max, against all odds, get one last shot at a comeback.
To be fair... that doesn't really do it justice. As much as someone might want you to think it does, Charlie is NOT trying to reclaim any glory or get the title he was denied. He is just a guy who is trying to make it work in a world he never expected to have to deal with. This is all about the kid. This is about a kid who finds a common thread between himself and the dad he literally never knew. Even that is 2nd to the main story of a kid who thinks he can do the impossible because he doesn't have anyone he trusts to tell him that it can't be done. He finds the junked robot and he convinces Charlie to get it a fight. Charlie does this to humor the kid. Teach him a lesson in reality. But this is a movie. Reality... doesn't really apply.
Hugh Jackman is fun as he often is. I like seeing him in non-Wolverine mode. When he can let some snark and humor through and you can tell that there were times that he truly enjoyed what he was doing. (He admits in a special feature on the DVD that there were times he was a 10 year kid again)
Dakota Goyo did a pretty good job holding his own with Jackman. His role was that of a precocious kid with attitude and he fulfills that role well. (Actually, there are times when the cute cup runneth over.)
The real stars are of course the robots. 'Atom' to be specific. I got to hand to director Shaun Levy. He made some gutsy choices in how the robots were done and they paid off. I was surprised to learn how much of the robots (when not in the ring) were practical effect puppetry. Some really impressive stuff and a smart move. Actor act much differently when there is actually something in the room with them than they do when the pretend. No matter who they are, there is a difference.
I don't think this movie would have been near as enjoyable or believable if the robots had been ALL digital.
Speaking of, the actual CGI is awesome! A mix of motion capture and 100% CGI, but they effects crew did an incredible job at blending the two, and incorporating the puppets, to the point where you never know exactly which you are looking at.
To bring this all back to the beginning of this review.. This is most definitely worth a viewing! If you are like me and are prone to giving the air a good fist pump when the hero steps up and kicks a little butt... This is a must see!
[By the way, there are some great special features included on the DVD and BluRay. (I was unable to review the BluRay features before the time of this post) including a commentary with director Shaun Levy, some great behind the scenes of the stunt work and set creation and a mobile device/computer sync up with the movie that gives even more behind the scenes information into the film!]