- Composed by Danny Elfman
- Varese Sarabande / 2011 / 42:18
A washed-out former boxer has to adapt to a new life in a world in which boxers are all robots. He gets some clapped-out old robot which stands no chance against all the super-robots, he mends relations with his son, you know the rest. If I were to make a list of film composers most likely to score an inspirational sports movie, Danny Elfman would not figure highly. Just doesn’t seem to be his thing and at this stage of his career, surely he doesn’t need to work on anything unless he really wants to. Therefore, seeing his name attached to Real Steel was a big surprise – but still, it never seemed likely that he (of all people) would deliver an entirely conventional, entirely corny score full of major-key triumphalism. Guess what – he has.
Elfman’s music ticks all the boxes. There’s a big fanfare theme for the big moments, a pleasant piano theme for those tender father-son relationship-mending moments, some all-out-action for the fights – it’s all here. It’s all OK, enjoyable to the hilt at times. Sadly it’s hard to ever believe that it’s particularly sincere – Jerry Goldsmith may have been just as cynical as Elfman away from the scoring stage, but there’s an emotional sincerity to the cheese of Hoosiers (the most obvious precedent to this score, rather than the more predictable Rocky) that never shows any hint of being in Real Steel. Elfman is a professional, so everything here is technically proficient, some of the tunes are fun, but it doesn’t go beyond what any reasonably-competent film composer might have written – there’s no personality here, only occasional hints that it was actually the work of a composer whose very strong musical personality is actually one of the strongest reasons he’s been so successful and remains so popular. It’s enjoyable fluff, for sure, but fluff nonetheless. ***
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