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Movie Review

Real Steel

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violence, intense action and brief language.

Reviewed by: Raphael Vera

Better than Average
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Sci-Fi Action Adventure Fantasy Drama IMAX
2 hr. 7 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
October 7, 2011 (wide—3,300+ theaters)
DVD: January 24, 2012
Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, DreamWorks SKG click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, DreamWorks SKG Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, DreamWorks SKG Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, DreamWorks SKG Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, DreamWorks SKG Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, DreamWorks SKG Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, DreamWorks SKG Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, DreamWorks SKG Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, DreamWorks SKG Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, DreamWorks SKG
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, DreamWorks SKG

the sin of PRIDE versus humility

“Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18)



father son relationship


challenges of changing careers

Featuring: Hugh JackmanCharlie Kenton
Evangeline Lilly
Kevin DurandRicky
Anthony Mackie
Hope Davis
Phil LaMarr … ESPN Boxing Commentator
Dakota Goyo … Max
James Rebhorn
Olga Fonda … Russian robot owner
more »
Director: Shawn Levy
Producer: Touchstone Pictures
DreamWorks SKG
21 Laps Entertainment
more »
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, DreamWorks SKG

“Courage is stronger than steel.”

In the near future boxing has become a “robots only” sport and many of the former boxers, like Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman), have resigned themselves to living vicariously through the robots that now do the fighting for them.

Charlie is traveling the countryside looking for any cut rate venue that will pay for a robot exhibition match when he is told that Max (Dakota Goyo), the 11 year old son he left behind, is now motherless, and he has custody. Willing to give him up to Max’s rich aunt and uncle, for the right price that is, he now has the money to buy the next “sure thing” robot on the condition that he has to take care of Max for the summer.

Former girlfriend and the daughter of Charlie’s original trainer, Bailey (Evangeline Lilly) still maintains the Gym that her dad left her to honor both him and the sport that they all loved. This is where Charlie always goes to repair his robots and where he now takes Max.

While scrounging for robot parts Max discovers an early generation “sparring” robot named Atom buried in mud and all but forgotten. Charlie thinks it’s a piece of Junk, but Max believes in Atom and soon father and son are spending the summer working together to turn an old training robot into a fighter.

Objectionable content

Language: Moderate. A half dozen uses of the Lord’s name in vain two of which were the abbreviated “jeez”, a single use of “hell”, seven mentions of ass as in “getting a__ kicked”, “you suck”, “you screwed me”, “SOB, “bit__,” “balls”, “shove it” and a single use of “sh__” were the extent of the offensive language used. Though much less frequent than other PG-13 rated films what makes it more pronounced is that half of these were said by a child.

Sex/Nudity: Minor. The most risqué shots were that of a few girls in bikini’s at a zoo fight and a tight fitting futuristic outfit worn by the girl holding the electronic “round card” at a bout. Charlie is seen very despondent and goes to Bailey who is asleep in bed and hugs her, but nothing is even implied. “Real Steel” is a very clean film in this regard.

Violence: Moderate. There are several fights with one in particular where a gang promises to beat Charlie to within an inch of his life. Some blood is seen as well as kicking to his head but often from a distance. The robot matches were where the most extreme fighting took place. Though often fought “to the death” they were very violent and often cost the loser a limb or two. Thankfully, the robots were portrayed as mindless automatons, mere extensions of their masters, so the audience is less emotionally attached amidst the devastation.


Early on, Bailey tells Charlie that all she wants to do is save her dad’s gym. It is here that she asks him, “What do you want?” Though he doesn’t reply, we already know the answer. Charlie’s love of boxing is now secondary to his desire for money. He foolishly continues gambling and making bets too large to pay off so his enslavement to money isn’t even profitable. The Bible speaks clearly on this:

“Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow” Proverbs 13:11.

“Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income” Ecclesiastes 5:10.

Gradually, we see how the “hope filled” Max begins to change his dad but it’s not enough, Charlie thinks, to turn him into the father Max needs. When all seems lost, a broken Charlie sorrowfully tells Max, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” Charlie tells his son later, “You forget who I was. You deserve better than me!” Isn’t this the revelation that new believers in Christ have when they are on the cusp of being saved? It is only when we realize our unworthiness that we begin to be of value to God.

The words of the prodigal son come to mind when he said, “I have sinned against Heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son” (John 15:21). And just as the father, a picture of God, welcomed him home and restored his standing so will God do to us if we admit our guilt and come to him.

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” 1 John 1:8-9.

After Bailey gives Charlie some good advice, he remarks, “You sound like your dad.” Later, during a match, Bailey see’s Charlie clearly reflected in his son. Likewise, we need to reflect the character of God, for if the world does not see God in us, how can we call ourselves his children?

Before a major battle Max asks Charlie what their strategy is and Charlie says, “We fight smart and pray.” When Max doesn’t react he takes him by the hand and shows he was serious by saying, “No, pray.” This may have been a quick scene, but I still appreciated it.

I was not surprised to learn that boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard was the consultant for the film, as the fight scenes were both exciting and the choreography, at times, very realistic. Like the Rocky films of old, it made you appreciate the art form that is boxing, generating more than a few cheers from the audience.

“Real Steel” bears little resemblance to the original “Twilight Zone” episode by Richard Matheson, but it is a good movie in its own right. Believable special effects, good cinematography, compelling battles, uplifting musical score, good acting, especially by child actor Dakota Goyo and positive messages coupled with a redemptive payoff make “Real Steel” a good film for teens and adults. Over the top violence and language make this unacceptable for pre-teens.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Minor

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—“Real Steel” offers what a good movie should: engaging exposition, good action (for this genre) and positive visual and audio elements. Jackman’s performance, though believable, seemed entirely predictable (as was the whole story); I wanted more from his performance but really, the part didn’t afford much of an opportunity. Lilly’s performance as Tallet was subtly enjoyable. There so much superfluous sexuality in movies these days, and I found her choice for a supporting actress and her performance refreshing.

Dakota Goyo did an admirable job as Max, the estranged child of the down-and-out fight promoter. While being precocious was the plan he certainly pulled off a worthwhile performance. I guess at the end of the day, the movie would be a big noisy nothing without the excellent Dreamworks exemplary rendition of the fighting robotic “stars”. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Doug Lloyd, age 53 (Canada)
Positive—There’s not much comparison to “Rocky,” in my opinion, but overall, a good movie with themes of redemption, especially on the part of the Charlie character. The robot boxing premise is not new. It’s been done before in some TV shows and cartoons.

The fighting sequences between the robots were exciting, however. I probably could have done without Charlie’s son, Max, using the foul language. Some screenwriters think it’s cute to have a kid cursing, and Max’s language did get some giggles from the audience in theater where I saw this movie. I was concerned that Max’s use of foul language was only admonished once by his dad, and then accepted afterwards. That did not send a good message about watching one’s words, especially as Charlie continued to use foul language around his son.

I do recommend this movie, because while the draw is the boxing robots, the story’s real heart concerns the relationship between the father and his son.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Hillari, age 49 (USA)
Positive—This was a great movie. One of those where the main character isn’t very likeable, at first, but you get to watch him grow as the movie progresses. The worst thing about boxing movies is getting attached to a character, and then watching him get beaten to a pulp. Although the squirm factor was taken down a notch, because the competitors weren’t flesh and blood, it was still hard to watch Atom getting pummeled. By the end, I was almost screaming and cheering along with the crowd on the screen (and some kids in the audience actually did)!

I would definitely recommend this one to fans of sports movies.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Kadie Jo, age 19 (USA)
Neutral—I took my two 13 year old boys to see this movie yesterday, and we all left loving and hating the movie, at the same time. We wondered why the cursing was necessary. Yes, it is about boxing and has action, but do you really have to say anything stronger than “Let’s tear “em up!”? It would not have changed the movie for us. It was disappointing to hear the young boy saying some curse words, as the main reviewer noted, also. He didn’t have a “rough” character that would say these words.

Other than the poor choices of words and too much skin from a couple of girls (which one of my boys mentioned afterwards—they DO notice these things), it was a great movie. One son stated it would have been the best movie he’d ever seen, if it wasn’t for the cursing and skin. The robots seemed alive and their movements were human. The rest of the movie was exciting and had you cheering on, as if you were watching “Rocky.”
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Melinda, age 45 (USA)
Neutral—…allegory behind the movie “Real Steel”—The robot Atom (Adam) was found in the clay of the earth, he was made better and taught knowledge until he was able to battle the robot Zeus (God). Atom (Adam) did not beat Zeus (God) but rather matched him, thus saying Atom (Adam) has become as good as Zeus (God). The allegory of the movie is man becoming like god, or Luciferianism.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Chris, age 40 (USA)
Negative—“Real Steel” is an engaging movie, to be sure. But however entertaining and human-like the robots were, the humans in the story were rather disappointing. Although Kenton shapes up a bit after his son comes into the picture, he never loses his most glaring character flaw: pride. He thrives on praise, he loves the limelight. And Max is his father’s son. He is stubborn and cocky, with a potty mouth, a propensity for gambling, and a talent for working the crowd. The boy is only eleven, yet he carries himself like a cynical little adult. The saddest part is, no one seems the least bit disturbed or upset by his behavior. No one attempts to correct him or point him to a higher road.

Although I greatly enjoyed the lively scenery and intense robot fights, my cheering was hampered by the bad attitudes, bad decisions and lousy life choices of the human characters. Throughout the film, even as the bell rung for the last time, a Bible verse kept running through my head, “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). What could have been a heartwarming story got too tangled up with the filth and sin of this world. It ended up flat on the mat instead. The perfect word to describe this movie: meretricious.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Christina, age 20 (USA)
Comments from young people
Positive—This was an excellent movie. I agree with another review about the cursing and some girls wearing inappropriate clothing (or lack there of), but other than that it was great. The CGI was very impressive. One scene was very touching with the father and son, when the father tells the son that he doesn’t deserve to be his father, which means I love you. It was excellent, and it was worth it to see it in theaters!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Brianna, age 15 (USA)
Negative—I watched this movie with my family, and we watched only 20 minutes of it. Within that twenty minutes, we heard about 5 cuss words and a very inappropriate part between the man and the main woman. This movie should only be watched by adults. We turned this movie on, thinking this would a good movie. It was not.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: none
—Liviya, age 14 (USA)