This film was expectantly enjoyable and surprisingly moving. It’s a film that has gotten mixed reviews. I found it had a good story and a real substance to the film that echoes what we all cry for. Here’s my experience and take away from it, and I’ll warn you before I get to talking about any spoilers. The story was built in the context of a robot-fighting world. It reflected the current day MMA fighting, reaffirmed the age-old desire of people to see two combatants duke it out as a sport and carried a Rocky sort of feel. It echoes human society’s plight to fight, to press on and to overcome. But in the end, it wasn’t so much about robot-fighting. It was something deeper. There was a humanity we can identify with imbedded in the robot-fighting. Here’s a bit of the spoiler.
The key line in the film, I found, was when the son said to his father, “Fight for me. That’s all I ever wanted.” At the heart of the story was about a father and son relationship that was estranged, antagonistic and fractured. It was about how a father and son can be father-and-son when so much had fallen apart and so much animosity had set in. The answer was if they wanted this relationship to work, they would have to fight for it. Like most of our significant relationships, we want to know that the other is willing to fight for us as much as we would want to know deep down in ourselves that we would equally and sincerely fight for the other person as well. I think the human cry is this: we are all in some shape, some form, like that little boy wanting someone to fight for us. That’s all we ever wanted. When we begin to tell ourselves that no one will fight for us and that we have to look out for number one, we dehumanize ourselves by becoming a person who has to develop an arrogant self-centeredness living in a dog-eat-dog only world. But at our core, we want to know that someone will fight for us – whether it’s our mothers or fathers when we were children, the boyfriend or girlfriend that didn’t work out, the bestfriend whose loyalty you hoped you could count on when everyone else deserts you, or the husband or wife whom you’d like to believe will do whatever it takes to make the marriage work and will win your love over and over again for the rest of your days. You know why we want to be fought for? It’s because we want to know that we are loved. It is the most basic and yet foundational need of our souls – to know that someone out there in the world loves us deeply that much to fight for us. It’s about having that someone in the world who makes us believe that we are worth fighting for, especially in times when we feel like we aren’t. We only fight for what we value most. We want to know that we matter that much to someone.
I always bring things back to God because that’s my worldview – God’s love is at the center of my reality. After I heard the son say that line, the truth of us wanting to be fought for struck me. And then I immediately thought, God has fought for me. When he sent his Son Jesus to die for us, it was no Sunday picnic in the park. It was the Son of the Most High relinquishing all the rights of heaven and being born in a cruel world to fight for us who couldn’t save ourselves from ourselves by dying a brutal death upon the cross in order to nullify the consequences of sin, conquer death, defeat Satan and overpower the gates of hell. He came as a liberator to set captives free and I was one of them. It makes me proud to say that my God fought for me, and he said this was the definition of love (1 Jn 4:10).
I know many of us, perhaps most of us, are looking for someone to fight for us. We want to know that we are loved and not just loved as in someone will remember my birthday on FB but loved as in someone would be willing to go through sweat and pain to fight for me – someone who would be willing to take a bullet for me. I know many of us fear that we can’t think of someone being willing to fight for us – it’s a frightfully, lonely thought. Some of us are the single mothers doing all the fighting for their children. Some are the hardworking employees in a cut-throat business. Others are husbands and wives in a non-fairytale marriage. And still many who are simply lonely in a sea of people simply wanting one good friend who’d say, “Don’t worry. I’ll stand by you and fight for you.” I think REAL STEEL tells us our cries are heard, and me writing this is also saying, your cry is heard. Perhaps by understanding this cry, we can begin to look for new friendships and nurture current relationships that include people who will be fighters for us even as we would commit to fight for them. Perhaps sometimes our mistake is we make the wrong friends. We have fun friends but not fighters. Perhaps in our current relationships that keep hitting dead ends, we haven’t yet communicated to the other person out of tears and desperation, “Fight for me. That’s all I ever wanted.” But most importantly, recognizing our own cries for this may allow us to hear God say to us on a daily basis, “I fought for you, child, and am still fighting for you everyday whether you see it or not.” Wherever we are in our relationships, we are loved beyond measure because we’ve been fought for at any measure.