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Real Steel

What a difference it makes to a dad when he knows his kid’s in his corner!
Charlie (Hugh Jackman) and his son, Max (Dakota Goyo) attend to their robot boxer, Atom.
Posted October 5, 2011

Shawn Levy / M (Violence)

What a difference it makes to a dad when he knows his kid’s in his corner! And what an inspiration for dads to be challenged to work at what matters most—being good fathers to their children.

But sometimes a boy and his dad have to ease into that groove, especially when Dad has a justifiably low opinion of himself. In Real Steel, Hugh Jackman stars as Charlie Kenton, a boxer pushed out of the rink after humans decide it’s more fun to watch robots fight to the ‘death’. Kenton is reunited with the son he ditched 11 years before in this Dreamworks/Disney story of father and son bonding as they work together to rebuild and battle a reject robot named Atom.

Boxing robots! What’s not to like?! Well, the kid, Max (played by the Dakota Goyo, who seems at times to be channelling Justin Bieber), is really too young and cherubic for the M-rating. Certainly the older-aged audience I saw Real Steel with was muttering about an overload of the ‘cheese’ factor as they exited the cinema. Having said that, the Dreamworks robots are impressive and the fight scenes stunningly choreographed, so it’s easy to overlook the lightweight character development, and clichéd storyline. Stars Hugh Jackman and love interest Evangeline Lilly (of Lost fame) will undoubtedly provide visual interest for many older fans. And, boy, can robot and kid dance!

At its heart, this is the tale of two equally stubborn strangers pushing aside hurts and failings until an uneasy truce (predictably) transforms into mutual appreciation. Predictable, yes. Disney-esque, totally. But still a more satisfying movie than either premise and movie trailer suggests. I even confess to shedding a tear in the touching final fight scene (to my surprise).

My main question is, who is this movie is pitched at? The technical and visual appeal of huge fighting robots (one of which is treated more like a mechanical pet) and a story focused on a young boy fighting for a place in Dad’s heart is far more likely to appeal to under early teens and younger. Yet the M-rating signals that the movie is more suitable for an older audience (16 and above), many of whom won’t find this one gritty or complex enough for their tastes.

My suspicion is that Real Steel is aimed at a younger, pro-Transfomers fan base. The colourful stickers and Real Steel temporary tattoos handed out at the preview screening certainly indicate that kids are the market. But despite the young co-star and family-focused moral, metal on metal instead of glove on skin is still brutal. So take the M-rating seriously and keep the kiddies away!

By Christina Tyson