Real Steel: It's a robot boxing movie with feeling. That's the dominant talking point when it comes to this weekend's film release starring Hugh Jackman as a dad in the near future who bonds with his son as the two transform a discarded robot into a championship boxer. As a father myself, says Anthony Breznican at Entertainment Weekly, of a daughter who's equally interested in princesses and robots, a film like this, that doesn't pander to stereotypes and has more to it "than just the spectacle of flying sparks," can't come soon enough. These days, he says, "girls made from sugar, and spice, and everything nice should have a little iron mixed in as well." An excerpt:
Why aren’t robots and sci-fi the kind of thing that all kids can enjoy regardless of gender, like Elmo, macaroni and cheese, or misbehaving?…
...But let’s face it: The reason robots have been the domain of little boys for so long is because the stereotype for both, mostly deserved, is “Destroy! Destroy! Destroy!” But with Real Steel, director Shawn Levy puts a great big beating heart at the center of his movie’s battered metal chest, broadening its appeal to not just dads and sons, but hopefully moms and daughters too. The story of Hugh Jackman as a down-on-his-luck, deadbeat dad who reconnects with his estranged son (Dakota Goyo) while they rebuild an 8-foot robot pugilist named Atom has a lot more in common with Paper Moon than Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
Levy and Jackman have said that they wanted the movie to have a heartfelt appeal beyond just robot spectacle, that the father-son story had to be strong enough to touch an audience even if the sport was ping-pong, or they were rebuilding a car instead of a metal gladiator.