‘Real Steel’ and the Joys of Practical Effects

Real Steel

Spend enough time with horror-loving fankind, and you will undoubtedly hear a lot of conversation about visual effects – and the great debate between computer generated and practical. In the world of horror, this is a daily discussion. Why? Because practical effects are an art form that is being phased out. But in the rare case that they are done, and done right, it makes all the difference. Such is the case with non-horror movies. For example, Shawn Levy’s upcoming robot boxing film Real Steel. On concept, it’s a cool idea. But when you see this first look images, you might just be a believer.

What makes this production special is the fact that instead of generating CGI boxing robots, Levy and the kids at Dreamworks have built 19 full-size boxing robots that will interact with actors like Hugh Jackman, Anthony Mackie and Evangeline Lilly. In an article at USA Today, Anthony Breznican explains: “Motion-capture animation is used in the film when the machines are brawling (with boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard working as an adviser on those), but 19 real-life animatronic giants were created for scenes with the human actors.”

“There are some things only visual effects can pull off,” said Shawn Levy, a director whose past work (Night at the Museum) wouldn’t lead you to believe that he’s the kind of ballsy director to go practical with 8-foot tall robots. “But when you give an actor a real thing, in this case a real 8-foot-tall machine, to interact with and do dialogue opposite, you get a more grounded reality to the performance.”

As I said, this is a rad concept to begin with. But putting in motion a lot of practical effects only increases the room for optimism around it. It has me hopeful that the film will live up to its name.

Check out the two high resolution photos from the set below, courtesy of Dreamworks Pictures.

Real Steel
Real Steel

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