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Real Steel - Atom and Zeus
Jakks Pacific

Real Steal action figures by Jakks Pacific


Some times, the silliest things annoy us to no end. Right now for me, it's people saying that the upcoming film Real Steel, starring Hugh Jackman, is based on the game Rockem Sockem Robots.

I suppose I understand the confusion - it wouldn't be the first game to get turned into a movie. Perhaps the best was Clue, but the upcoming Battleship is probably a big part of the mistake. Which is slightly ironic, since it's a mistake in itself, as well.

And of course, there are robots, and they do box. But boxing robots is where the similarity to the old game begins and ends. The film is actually based on a short story called "Steel" by the exceptional Richard Matheson.

The story was adapted for the Twilight Zone episode "Steel" (you can stream it on Netflix and it's well worth it), starring Lee Marvin. In the bleak, dystopian future of 1974, boxing between humans has been criminalized, but the fights continue with robots. Marvin is the handler for a washed up robot named Battling Maxo, and he is in desperate need of cash just for parts for the outdated fighting machine.
Real Steel action figures by Jakks Pacific
Real Steel action figures by Jakks Pacific
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Real Steel action figures by Jakks Pacific
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Real Steel action figures by Jakks Pacific
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Real Steel action figures by Jakks Pacific
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Real Steel action figures by Jakks Pacific
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Real Steel action figures by Jakks Pacific
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Real Steel action figures by Jakks Pacific

The story is all about desperation, and what a man will do to survive - and come out on top. It's also about our own inevitable replacement, either by those younger than us, or by the mechanical Frankenstein monsters we create. It is NOT a feel good story, but then, there weren't a whole lot of Twilight Zone episodes that were.

The new film is supposed to be more of a father/son story, and I have a bad feeling that it is intended as a feel good story with a sappy happy ending. Unfortunately, it looks like boxing robots will be the only thing Real Steel has in common with the supposed inspiration, Steel. In fact, the Simpsons episode I, (Annoyed Grunt)-Bot is probably closer to the original story. I'm just guessing of course, but it doesn't take a fortune teller to figure this one out.

Supporting this feel-good notion is the release of a number of toys in both a 4" and 6" format at mass retailers. I snagged two of the 4" robots for the review tonight - Atom and Zeus. While I'm not positive, I believe Atom is the main protagonist robot, while Zeus is the main antagonist. Atom is the smaller, with more of a junk pile look, while Zeus is larger, with the larger hands and slightly gorilla-like head sculpt. These retail for around $8 at most stores, and include a light up feature.

Packaging - ***1/2
There's nothing too exciting about the package design, but there are some solid positives. First, it's not too wasteful, being just slightly larger than the figure itself. There's no twisty ties or rubber bands - yea! They show the entire first wave on the back of the package. And they are personalized to some degree for each character. So while the overall design might be action figure blister pack 101, it still incorporates all the physical properties that are important.

Sculpting - ***
It's still up in the air as to exactly how close these robots match the film versions. I know that they don't quite match the big versions I saw at SDCC - either this shiny cool Asian influenced one who is in this series, or the one I assumed would be Atom - but to be fair, we haven't seen the actual film yet. A lot can change, which is of course why it's often difficult for toy manufacturers to get the final look accurately.

However, Jakks has given both quite a bit of detail. While these are in a 4" scale, they are actually quite a bit bigger than that (see the comparison photo to see them with the same scale Stormtrooper), running just over 5 inches tall. Even better, the two are not the same height or build, likely done to mirror the film representation.

The sculpting also makes it clear that Zeus is brand new technology, shiny, undamaged and smooth. While there is some detail work to the face sculpt and the various pistons and rivets, there is also a very metallic appearance to his overall armature.

On the other hand, you have the textured, rough Atom. He has plenty of damage, with dings, scratches and wear sculpted right into the body. His parts are clearly old, and the technology appears older, less refined.

Both figures stand great on their own, although the poses are all pretty basic.

Paint - ***
The work on Zeus is pretty straight forward, since most of the pieces are cast in the color. There's not a lot of detail, but what's here is reasonably well done considering the price point.

Atom has the more complex paint job due to all the damage and wear. Again, they've done a nice job considering the market and price point, but there's nothing here to astound.

I do think the blue eyes painted on the front of the mesh face are rather...interesting. I'm betting that means something in the movie. Perhaps the son does it to add some humanity to the face?

Articulation - **
There's nothing about the articulation that really stands out, and in fact they were less posable than I'd hoped, given the number of points.

Because of the light up feature, there's no neck, chest or waist articulation. That's very limiting, even with a reasonable number of joints in the arms and legs.

The shoulders and hips are post/disc ball joints, with a decent range of movement. The elbows and knees are single pin joints, and the ankles and wrists are basic cut joints with a post.

Even with those joints, you can't do much in the way of realistic fighting stances or boxing poses.

They do have the swappable limbs which is a nice touch, but more on that in a later category.

Accessories - Bupkis
Nope, nothing here to see. However, with the swappable limbs, it's kind of like you get accessories...if you squint at the concept just right. Swappable limbs, you say? Yep, more on that in the next category...

Action Feature - ***
This is pretty straight forward - you can swap the arms, hands or legs from one figure to the other. It works well enough, and they pop on and off without much trouble, but this is largely a kid-centric feature.

Light Feature - Atom ***; Zeus **1/2
Both figures light up when you press down on the head. This is true of the entire first series of figures in this scale.

Atom worked perfectly every time, but I had to futz with Zeus to get him to actually light at times. The connection with the button wasn't as sharp and clean, making his feature slightly more frustrating.

But when they are lit, they are bright and clear. It's just the chest that has translucent plastic though, so there's no light up eyes or other areas. 

While the feature is fine on its own, most people (i.e. collectors) will find the loss of any neck, chest or waist articulation a major disadvantage.

Fun Factor - ***
The swappable limbs and light up features go a long way to making these more fun for kids than collectors. The figures are also quite sturdy, and I didn't have any fear of breakage when I was popping off the hands, arms or legs. Depending on how well the film turns out, these could be perfect for the 8 or 9 year old fan - or they could be the Christmas peg warmers.

Value - ***
For eight bucks these days, you generally get a small licensed 4" figure with maybe one accessory. Here you're getting 4" scaled figures that are actually over 5" that light up - not a bad value at all on the current market.

Things to Watch Out For -
Some of the joints can be sticky due to the paint, especially the elbows on Atom. I was able to get everything moving freely with a little work, but take your time and make sure you loosen them up before handing them to the average impatient 8 year old.

Overall - Atom ***; Zeus **1/2
These aren't bad...but they aren't particularly exciting either. If you're looking for really great figures in this scale, check out the Unimax stuff - they're doing an amazing job on the Assassin's Creed figures.

But Jakks has done a reasonable set of toys that kids can have a good time with, and I like the concept of the swappable parts. Whether these sell well or warm pegs is going to depend heavily on the film - and whether kids respond to its father/son message.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ***1/2
Sculpting - ***
Paint - ***
Articulation - **
Accessories - Bupkis
Light Up Feature - ***
Action Feature - ***
Fun Factor - ***
Value - ***
Overall - Atom ***; Zeus **1/2

Where to Buy -
Your best bet is to hit the local Target or Toys R Us, where you can find these for around $8, or the larger 6" figures. There's a couple playsets as well.

Related Links -
Like robots? Then check out these other reviews:

- there's Bad Robot, the mascot for J.J. Abrams company.

- in the Masters of the Universe world, there's Roboto.

- For the show Robot Chicken, they released the robot and his washing machine lover.

- the robots from Ashley Woods WWR series are uber-cool, like Large Martin

- I've reviewed lots of Benders, but there's also the cool Robot Santa and Robot Devil from Futurama.

- I think the FOX Sports mascot Cletus could take either of these guys.

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Real Steel action figures by Jakks Pacific


This product was purchased for the review by the reviewer. Photos and text by Michael Crawford.

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