REAL STEEL (PG-13 for some violence, intense action): With sound hiked beyond normal limits, action pitched beyond belief, and a plot that's been tried & tested since the 1931 "The Champ," starring Wallace Beery & Jackie Cooper in the father/son roles - then updated to fight ring battles at a time when the fighting is done by robots - how could it lose?
It doesn't, in the main, thanks to Shawn Levy directing a script by John Gatins (based on a story by Dan Gilroy & Jeremy Leven, & the short story "Steel" by Richard Matheson), with Mauro Fiore photographing as if he knew all there is to know about people living seedy lives in the fighting business, Dean Zimmerman editing with the now expected MTV rapid-fire clips, and music pro Danny Elfman shoving fully orchestrated sounds at us from start to big sound finish.
A total of 128-minutes of a traditional tale is told, one that encompasses the lives of, especially, once great fighter Charlie (Hugh Jackman in his finest role to date) who faces feeble attempts to pay of his debts with a wreck of a robot while (at first) unhappily struggling with raising 11-year-old son Max (Dakota Goyo, full of piss & vinegar, but no Jackie Cooper) - who turns out to be the brains in the duo and who lifts their robot construction to a level almost ready for the big time.
As the father/son bonding goes on, enter to complete the plot is a nasty foreign couple with a monstrous robot in contention. Eventually, with a David & Goliath match, held in Detroit with zillions of screaming, leaping, swilling people watching, guess who wins?
That's about it. But there are enough side features & amusing details included along with a top-notch production that lift it above the usual copy-cat imitations. Sure, it's all very much a shiny, glossy update of a time-worn plot, but, believe it or not, it manages to hold interest. (Grade: B-)