Dispite what many, including myself, expected from the new movie “Real Steel”, I have to say it is quite amazing. I expected to go in and get some corny version of live action Rock’em Sock’em Robots. Instead I got a bit of Rocky meets I-Robot meets inspirational Father-son movie. I could give you a review of how the action kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time (which is rare for a movie), how Hugh Jackman does a terrific job, and how it is incredibly creative and innovative, but then it would just be another blog post. And I don’t like those.
Instead, I’m going to talk about the deeper pieces of the movie that may or may not go unnoticed, and the revolution that is percolating in the film industry.
If you want to know what America is dreaming, look to Hollywood. Lately, the themes have been vampires, superheros, zombies, and robots. My question is why? Why all of the sudden is every movie about these strange incarnations of humans? All creatures that reflect our image, but with powers– supernatural. America is hungry for more. It started with Harry Potter in my generation, but the last ten years have given rise to a whole movement. As a collective consciousness, this generation is yearning for the supernatural. In this search for supernatural truth, for raising man up from his fallen nature into something more, many answers are being presented. Zombies live forever, but they are only shells. Vampires have supernatural abilities AND live forever, but their nature drives them to kill. Superheros have to hide who they are, and they have the weight of the world on their shoulders. (Although superheros in community keep coming up as well, like X-Men and The Avengers…sound like the church perhaps?) We love to watch people conquer the world in movies. It inspires us to become more than we are. It makes us want to change the world. Yet, we still haven’t done much. This new rise of supernatural films is pointing out exactly that. It’s not enough to want to change the world; America’s dreams are revealing that we need supernatural help to do it. We war against more than flesh and blood, and we must be more than flesh and blood to overcome. We want the supernatural to invade. We want more than just words and ideas. We want power, and we want it for real. The thing is, implied in a desire for the supernatural comes the question of where that power comes from.
Real Steel subtly suggests that power comes from the Christian God. How do we give birth to something powerful? How does humanity breathe life into something that can change the world, and give Man back his humanity? In a world hungry for violence and selfish power, how do we release the power it takes to bring peace and true love? What (and who) are we fighting for? Charlie (Hugh Jackman) has to discover what is worth fighting for. Max has to discover what is worth fighting for. Now, for the fun stuff. If you haven’t seen the movie, you may not want to read on. (That was my spoiler alert.)
Where does Max find “Atom”? In the place where Man forgets about his old junk, Adam– oh, excuse me…”Atom” is pulled out from the miry clay. The story begins with the son helping to “create” a being out of the earth, but instead of it being in Eden, it’s a phoenix story. Out of the ashes of Man’s forgotten junk arises hope. It’s as if through Atom, Max has given birth to a new Adam. He has a “shadow feature”, meaning he can learn from others, and his fighting style is based on the moves that are taught to him by his trainer. It’s as if Charlie and Max are breathing life into Atom like the Father and Son breathed into Adam. Atom personifies Man rising again out of the ashes for a new chance to renew and reform the world.
Before Zeus Charlie and Max face off against Midas. Interesting. This duo represent mankind, so they must first choose to overcome their lust for gold. Jesus said you cannot serve two masters; you cannot serve God and money.Midas’ defeat of the two reveals how Man must choose to reject his current gods –himself and money– in favor of the true God. Max makes this choice as he chooses to pull Atom out of the clay, rather than gambling or swindling for the sake of getting a robot to make money off of. At first Atom only receives from Max because Max is the one that has made the decision to serve God not money. Our new Adam has to be pure to overcome the world. As Charlie changes, and begins to understand love and sacrifice, he begins to also pour into Atom.
Atom’s first professional match? Twin Cities. Why? Twin Cities has all the sparkle, all the glamour, and represents the glory of…well…the city! In a sense, he represents the accomplishments of man apart from God, and the glamour that comes from self promotion and reliance on Man’s own power and ability. It is humanity’s big chance to overcome Midas once again. Atom gets the chance to defeat fame, glory, and the temptation of money(remember Farra Lemkova?). But how does he do it? Charlie gives us the answer in a charming and powerful line. He tells Max “Pray. Seriously, pray!” Recognizing that humanity can only rise above it’s current state through supernatural intervention. It takes the God who formed Adam from the clay to give Atom the victory. This line may seem trivial or just cute in the movie, but I assure you it is essential and intentional.
Who does Atom face off against in the final battle? Zeus. The ultimate god of this world. The symbol of paganism, of using power for personal gain, of the lust of the flesh and the chaotic forces of a world without a good God. Like Christ, which Paul refers to in the New Testament as “the second Adam”, our Atom takes a beating. He receives into himself all that Zeus can throw at him, and when it seems the fight is won, he conquers! Atom overcomes steel with spirit. Where Zeus reveals what it looks like for man to misuse his power to create the ultimate violence machine, Atom uses Man’s power to represent how humility and a heart filled with light can overcome all darkness. Zues wins the fight officially, but every single person knows that Zues has lost. He may get to flaunt his title for a little while longer, but the victory is decided. Just as today, the enemy of the people is still flaunting his title around, but everyone knows who has won. Soon enough, the ultimate Adam, the true humble King will use His power to once and for all take back what is rightfully His.