Saturday, April 21, 2012

Real Steel

This is the poster for a real movie that
made real money.
I watched the movie Real Steel last night, and while I liked it, I also think it's the final proof that story execution is more important than story concept.  I mean, in concept, Real Steel is idiotic.  A loser on bottom rungs of the independent fight circuit suddenly learns that he has a son, and together the two of them build and train a champion fighting robot.  On top of that, the movie leaves several plot threads hanging with little or no resolution.  And yet... a hit!

The movie works, I think, because the script is pretty good, because it's well-acted, and because it's well-produced.  Most important, to me, is the script.  This movie has A LOT going on, but the screenwriters manage to keep it balanced.  Yes, they leave a couple of plot threads hanging, but consider: this is a Sci Fi-Sports Movie-Romance.  All of those elements have to get screen time, and the characters have to have room to breath.  In the hands of lesser writers, this movie would have run three-and-a-half hours!

Of course, it help to have a good formula to work with, and this particular film has three.  At base, we have the Sports Movie Formula, in which a talented loser finds a reason to get his life together and become the champion that the people around him always believed that he could be.  Layered over that is the Romance--executed here as a budding Father-Son relationship--in which two people are made for each other, but something ridiculous keeps them apart.  Finally, there's the Sci Fi formula--here, a human boxer struggling to make it in a world where actual humans no longer box.  Of course, it's this last plot thread that gets left hanging.  It's implied that Hugh Jackman's character misses traditional boxing, but we never actually see that, and moreover, the guy seems to actively like playing with robots.  Yet, it's his skill as a boxer--a human boxer--that actually turns the plot, allowing our heroes to successfully resolve the primary plot thread.

Still, people like sports movies, and they like good romances, and this movie is both of those things.  You can see most of that in the clip below.  And that, I think, is what makes this movie work--good formula that's executed well.

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