What would you pay more to see: two dudes beating the tar out of each other, or two androids knocking the motor oil out of each other?
My first instinct is the robots, because it's new and there's a higher chance of someone in the audience dying. Unless the human fighters get to wear exploding gloves or one of them is a wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals. But I'm thinking about this and we kind of already had robot fights with those TV shows about the fighting robots. They did all right, but I didn't see them produce a single Bot Lesnar or Manny Pacquia01011010.
Plus do you know how much it costs to manufacture a fight-worthy battle bot? Compared to that, do you know you can make a new human for the minor cost of a dinner at Red Robin and one and a half bottles of Boone's Farm? The numbers just don't add up. I hope you are prepared for a segue, because some other things that do not add up are the plot and characters of the bot-boxing flick Real Steel.
Hugh Jackman is an amateur robot jockey, matching his broke-down bots against others in the boxing ring for small paydays. But his freewheeling lifestyle is threatened when an ex-girlfriend dies, leaving him with custody of 11-year-old Dakota Goyo, a son he's never seen.
Jackman immediately sells the boy to a rich aunt, but is left with Goyo over the summer while his new foster parents travel to Italy. While hunting for scraps, Goyo finds a strange old robot. With his training and Jackman's boxing knowledge, the little bot starts to win.
Fightin' robots are closer to my heart than my pericardium. If you could marry a robot that fights other robots, you must be German. Good to meet you! I am envious. Would you like to see the dress I have crafted for Starscream? I think you will find the support...alluring. Yes, it is tricky to hem tinfoil, but it is worth it in the end.
Suffice to say, then, I'm predisposed to like a movie like Real Steel. Gaining my approval of a movie where one big robot punches another big robot until one of the robots dies should be easier than slaying a human with a mighty volley of eye-lasers and finger-mounted missiles. And Real Steel is thrilling enough when one colossal metal man is pounding hell out of another. Jackman seems even more enthusiastic than the crowds, lending a lot of energy to the bouts.
But in direct opposition to the universal appeal of boxing robots is the corrosive phenomenon known as Stupid Little Kid Who Acts Like He's Twice His Age syndrome. A common affliction among the Hollywood community, this debilitating disease claims the careers of dozens of child actors every year. Won't you help the cause by donating $12 for a ticket and smiling patiently while Goyo and kids just like him do and say things no Earth 11-year-old could even understand? The future of an obnoxious trend depends on it.
Needless to say, I'm in favor of letting such things die a gruesome death. While Goyo's sometimes allowed to act like a real kid, his overbearing precocity is a nonstop distraction. Nothing about his role makes sense. Jackman tries to keep him out of the junkyard because it's too dangerous, but after Goyo has nearly fallen to his doom down a muddy cliff, discovering his new robot in the process, Jackman's reaction is basically "I told you it was too dangerous! Now if you want that bot, I'm going to go sleep in the car while you dig it out of a slippery cliff in this rainstorm!"
It's kind of funny, but it's also utterly ridiculous. Meanwhile, Evangeline Lilly exists as Jackman's ex- (and maybe future??) girlfriend because you have to have a hot chick somewhere. The sort-of villains hardly register, but that doesn't stop them from acting really, really stupid in Jackman and Goyo's favor. That's the story of Real Steel: it has its moments. It can please a crowd. But it's built on a scrapyard of cliches and nonsense as rusty and full of holes as Goyo's little sparring bot. Now that's what I call a metaphor.