Wow, another crowd-pleaser sport movie for the year (the other one was a much better “Warrior”) and I figured many, if not most, would’ve liked it. It is, after all, a can’t-go-wrong formula of an underdog story, imbued with an adept father-son drama, with another layer of a boy with his toy/pet/robot as an icing on a cake. Honestly, it doesn’t take much to make it works. And despite the obvious and not to mention, cliché manipulations from the movie to get its audiences rooted for its protagonist, most of the audiences wouldn’t mind. I don’t mind. At least, for most of the important part of the movie which is obviously during its third act when our protagonist’s robot paved its (and its owner) way to glory.
In a not-so-distant future, the boxing match, or even perhaps, martial arts in general itself, has a disruptive change. In keeping with demands of more brutal and more savage display of a competitive man against man fight, the world has pushed robots in lieu of human athletes. Without fear of a tragic outcome when inflicted harms taking their tolls more than they were morally acceptable, the robot boxing quickly grown into a blockbuster entertainment arena where money and fame rolled into one giant dough. Hugh Jackman is Charlie Keaton, a struggling promoter?/robot owner?/trainer? who has strings of bad luck with his robot fighting as he enters an arena with a fully functional robot only to leave with a heap of scrap metals, he was neck deep in debt (at least to three different persons), and his only trusting friend, Bailey Tallet (Evangeline Lilly) has reached her patience limit in keeping up with him. As if it wasn’t enough, his “abandoned” son, Max (Dakota Goyo) came into his life after his mother, Charlie’s ex-girlfriend, died.
There’s so much going on within the two hours confine of this movie. I personally find myself rather impatient during the first and most of second act. Not until Max and Charlie settles on Atom, their designated fighter robot had the movie picking up the pace. And like I said, this movie is essentially a crowd-pleaser sport movie, deftly delivered that even the most cynical part in me is willing to forgive the rather overlong “intro,” and its many contrivances to elicit our sympathy. When it works, it just works.
Hugh Jackman is doing so well in a role that I think was made specifically for him. A wounded hero, and a naturally good guy hiding himself in the shell of insecurities, with more than an ample dose of illusion of grandeur. It’s hard for us, guys, not to be able to relate with his character. And I don’t think the case would be that much easier with you girls out there. For him, I think, this role is a walk in a park. Evangeline Lilly, lovely as she is, has to settle on a light role in the background as Charlie’s love interest. She didn’t do much, nor does she had to. And normally, I don’t really like child actors, but Max role doesn’t require much and it has been rehashed too many times in the past. Dakota Goyo deliveries are neither came as too cute, or too annoying, he’s just right in keeping up with Hugh Jackman and even if the character doesn’t require (and didn’t do) much, within the context of the movie, it’s just fine. Not one that would goes down in a history, but just enough, as a nearly undistinguishable solid foundation, if you will, to a structure of a deft crowd-pleaser movie.
One last note, many would’ve draw a comparison of this movie to “Rocky” but I beg to differ. Yeah, sure, I was expecting the Rocky’s theme song during Atom’s training but that’s just because “Rocky,” like it or not, has become an iconic crowd-pelaser sport movie that nearly all the similar themed movies that came afterwards would have its theme song implied in the background. If I have my say, this movie edges slightly toward “Transformers” in a way that the robots are the main course, and everything else are dishes made of often rehashed, can’t-go-wrong recipes, delivered with a good enough service that would leave many of you going home, feeling satiated and content.