Real Steel appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. The movie came with a solid presentation.
Sharpness was positive. Only a smidgen of softness ever appeared, and that was restricted to a few wide shots. The vast majority of the movie demonstrated strong clarity and delineation. No issues with jaggies or shimmering occurred, and I noticed no edge haloes or print flaws.
Colors looked fine. The movie usually went with a slightly golden tone, though arena boxing shots featured peppier neon hues, and scenes with darker emotional content tended to be chillier. Whatever the requirements, the colors came across with nice clarity and liveliness. Blacks were dark and tight, and low-light shots demonstrated positive visibility. I had no complaints about this fine image.
I felt equally impressed by the lively DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack of Real Steel, as it offered a lot of pizzazz. The soundfield created a terrific sense of place and threw out fine action when appropriate. The movie’s various boxing sequences boasted vivid material that showed up around the spectrum in a dynamic manner.
Other aspects of the track satisfied as well. Music always offered good stereo imaging, and quieter scenes were convincing, too. These showed a clear sense of place and meshed together in a pleasing way.
Audio quality always seemed strong. Effects were dynamic and clear, with deep bass and good punch. Music showed similar strengths, as the score was lively and full. Speech came across as natural and concise. I liked this track and thought it added a lot to the movie.
When we head to extras, we find something unusual under the banner of Second Screen. This offers a different kind of picture-in-picture program, as it requires an external device to work best; you’re supposed to synchronize the Blu-ray to your computer or iPad.
Normally I don’t review anything that requires an external connection; that’s why I’ve never touched on BD-Live, as I prefer only to discuss content that exists on the Blu-ray itself. I planned to make an exception for Second Screen, but alas, I was unable to take full advantage of the feature; as I write, the Blu-ray’s still 10 days from retail release, so the Second Screen website hasn’t gone live yet.
I’m still going to review Second Screen, however, because even with the external option unavailable, it still functions – albeit in a “dumbed down” manner. The main component to the totally disc-based version comes from an audio commentary with director Shawn Levy. He offers a running, screen-specific look at how he came onto the picture, cast, characters and performances, music, audio and editing, story/script areas, action and fight choreography, visual design and cinematography, various effects, robot construction, sets and locations, and a few other areas.
Levy always displays a high level of enthusiasm during his commentaries, and that continues here. Though he can veer toward the happy talk side of the street, I still appreciate his energy, and he contributes a lot of good information about the flick. Levy makes this a breezy, enjoyable chat.
In addition to Levy’s commentary, we get branching video and picture-in-picture elements. These let us go to the set and learn about production design, the film’s take on the future, robot design and creation, motion capture, cast and performances, dance choreography, and sound design. We get notes from Levy as well as production designer Tom Meyer, writer John Gatins, dance choreographer Anne Fletcher, supervising sound editor Craig Henighan, editor Dean Zimmerman, and actors Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly, Dakota Goyo, and Hope Davis.
While I suspect that the fully-enabled “Second Screen” will be more dynamic, the disc-based version essentially offers “audio commentary plus”. Levy’s basic commentary dominates the piece, as only occasional branching pieces appear. These are worthwhile, but we don’t get enough of them to make the disc-based “Screen” useful.
The rest of the extras follow a more conventional path, including four featurettes. Countdown to the Fight: The Charlie Kenton Story goes for 13 minutes, 51 seconds and offers notes from movie characters. It provides a fictionalized “behind the scenes” to show the history of the flick’s Charlie role. The film delivers a little exposition in that regard, but not this much; that makes this a cool bonus, as it lets us learn a lot more backstory about the flick’s lead.
Next comes the 14-minute, 14-second Making of Metal Valley. It offers notes from Levy, Meyer, executive producer Mary McLaglen, special effects coordinator Joe DiGaetano, stunt coordinator Garrett Warren, stunt double Kelli Barksdale, 1st AD/executive producer Josh McLaglen, co-producer Eric Hedayat, visual effects supervisor Eric Nash, As implied by the title, this featurette delivers details on how the film’s “Metal Valley” location was created, shows the shoot there and follows through effects and editing. We get some similar information in “Second Screen”, but the program delivers a lot of nice shots from the set and digs into the requisite details well.
Building the Bots lasts five minutes, 38 seconds and features remarks from Levy, Jackman, Meyer, Lilly, Gatins, Goyo and robotics supervisor John Rosengrant. The show looks at the design of the boxing robots and their creation, with an emphasis on the practical machines used on the set. It’s another enjoyable, informative piece.
Finally, Sugar Ray Leonard: Cornerman’s Champ goes for six minutes, 19 seconds and delivers material from Levy, Warren, Jackman, and boxing consultant Sugar Ray Leonard. We get some notes about how Leonard helped coach and choreograph the boxing scenes. Some of this tends to be fluffy praise for Leonard, but it still has some decent insights along the way.
Two Deleted and Extended Scenes last a total of 17 minutes, 48 seconds. We get “Extended Meet Ambush” (4:05) and “Deleted Butterfly Storyline” (13:43). Both come with introductions from Levy; he gives us good notes about the sequences and why he cut them.
“Ambush” doesn’t add a whole lot; it throws in some additional snarky comments from the little girls but not much else. “Butterfly” provides an omitted subplot in which we learn more about Max’s backstory. It’s not a bad thread but it doesn’t add much, and given that the end movie already runs a little long, an extra 10 minutes or so would’ve hurt it.
After this we get a collection of Bloopers. The reel runs two minutes, 36 seconds and shows the usual goofs and giggles. However, it throws in some improv lines as well, so those add a little spark to the proceedings.
The disc opens with ads for The Avengers, Real Steel, and The Help. Sneak Peeks also provides a promo for Castle. No trailer for Real Steel pops up on the disc.
A second platter gives us a DVD Copy of Real Steel. This offers a retail version of the flick, which means it boasts a few extras; it includes Levy’s audio commentary as well as “Metal Valley”, “Bots” and “Bloopers”. Though it has nothing exclusive, it brings us an easier way to access the commentary if you don’t want to bother with the complications of “Second Screen”.
At no point does Real Steel threaten to become a memorable cinematic experience, but it does enough right to create quality entertainment. While it follows a resolutely predictable path, it still manages to bring us with it and spur us to cheer even when we understand how hokey and cheesy it should be. The Blu-ray delivers terrific picture and audio along with a reasonably informative set of supplements. I think this brings us a quality release for a likable movie.