Charlie Kenton was once a great boxer, going toe-to-toe with some of the best of the world. With the rise of robot fighting, boxing faded into the dark. Focused on trying to make it in the rising robot fighting business, Charlie struggles to keep his bots operational. Though ambitious, his fights have cost him his family and put him in trouble with the scum of the fighting world. When he learns that his ex-wife has passed, he appears in court with the intention of releasing his son to his aunt but is able to cut a deal to get a lot of money to help him get back on his feet. While Aunt Debra and Marvin go on a vacation, they leave Max in the care of Charlie. After his new robot fails to deliver as well as he believed, he and Charlie go on a trip to the junkyard and return with a sparring bot that no one would give a second look to. Max believes in his find and convinces Charlie to let him enter Atom into any fight they can get. After scoring some success in their first bout, Charlie and Max take their show on the road, in hopes of recovering in more ways than one.
Starring: Hugh Jackman (Charlie Kenton), Dakota Goyo (Max Kenton), Evangeline Lilly (Bailey Tallet), Hope Davis (Aunt Debra), James Rebhorn (Marvin), Anthony Mackie (Finn), Kevin Durand (Ricky), Olga Fonda (Farra Lemkova), Karl Yune (Tak Mashido)
Though he certainly maintains the build of a fighter, Jackman’s acting comes off a bit more unbalanced than one may expect. He has the brashness of a boxer but seems a little imperfect at times in making the emotional connections feel real in a few of the earlier scenes. Goyo certainly is a brash kid himself (shadowing much of the presentation of Jackman), but his stubbornness is way too strong at times, even for a kid who feels slighted by his shattered relationship with his father. Lilly plays a solid supporting character as the voice of reason and observation in Jackman’s relationship with Goyo, but adds nothing more than a push to that storyline. Fonda, Yune and Durand represent the bad guys well, whether it be the unapproachable nature of the elite fighting team or the brutish behavior of a lowlife swindler.
Melding together the familiar and not so familiar, Shawn Levy uses the sport of robot fighting to represent the struggles and repair of a father and son relationship. Due to his obsession with boxing and robot fighting, Charlie lost touch with his family and abandoned his son. Their reunion was met with uncertainty, as Charlie had no intention of extending their relationship longer than it needed to be. When Max found the robot, he learned about the shadow feature; but as the story continued, the shadow feature of the robot mimic the personality characteristics between the father/son pair. Max contained all of the same stubbornness and risk-taking of his father (though they fought about it at every turn). While it may have been a little off-putting to place so much focus on Max’s success overshadowing his father’s without any real setup of how he got there, it was integrated better later in the film.
The graphic features were certainly the star of the show in this sci-fi fighting feature. Each of the fights exhibited the transformation of clean, crisp robots and showed all of the nicks and dings along the way until the bout was over. With oil and fuel spraying all over the place, the images appeared to move fluidly and were well integrated with the human actors. It was a little unbelievable that the robots did not hit people at times with how close they got, but there were generally people ducking out of the way to avoid the attacks. Also integrated significantly into the presentation were the advertisers to an extent that was more prevalent than most other films, including Sprint and HP.
While the film was not a total knockout, it has a lot of charm once you get past the overacting of both Jackman and Goyo. The fight scenes are rather entertaining and there is an interesting mystery to the actual ability of their junkyard robot.
Dan’s Rating: 3.5/5