Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Shawn Levy|
|Produced by||Shawn Levy
|Screenplay by||John Gatins|
|Story by||Dan Gilroy
by Richard Matheson
|Music by||Danny Elfman|
|Edited by||Dean Zimmerman|
|Distributed by||Walt Disney Studios
|Box office||$299.3 million|
Real Steel is a 2011 American science fiction sports film starring Hugh Jackman and Dakota Goyo, co-produced and directed by Shawn Levy for DreamWorks Pictures. The film is based on the short story "Steel", written by Richard Matheson, which was originally published in the May 1956 edition of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and later adapted into a 1963 Twilight Zone episode, though screenwriter John Gatins placed the film in U.S. state fairs and other "old-fashioned" Americana settings. Real Steel was in development for several years before production began on June 24, 2010. Filming took place primarily in the U.S. state of Michigan. Animatronic robots were built for the film, and motion capture technology was used to depict the brawling of computer-generated robots and animatronics.
Real Steel was theatrically released by Touchstone Pictures in Australia on October 6, 2011, and in the United States and Canada on October 7, 2011, grossing nearly $300 million at the box office. It received mixed reviews, with criticism for the formulaic nature of the plot and the fact that elements remained unresolved or were predictable, but also praise for the visual effects, action sequences and acting performances. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects at the 84th Academy Awards, but lost to Hugo.
In 2020, human boxers are replaced by robots. Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman), a former boxer, owns "Ambush", but loses it in an arranged fight against a bull belonging to promoter and carnival owner Ricky (Kevin Durand), who sees Charlie as a joke, partially because he beat Charlie the last time they competed in the ring. Having made a bet that Ambush would win, Charlie now has a debt to Ricky—which he runs out on.
After the fight, Charlie learns that his ex-girlfriend died and he must attend a hearing deciding the future of their son, Max (Dakota Goyo). There, Max's aunt, Debra (Hope Davis), and her wealthy husband, Marvin (James Rebhorn), request full custody, which Charlie concedes for $100,000, half in advance, on the condition that Charlie retains Max for three months. Thereupon, Charlie, Max, and Bailey Tallet (Evangeline Lilly), the daughter of Charlie's former boxing coach, acquire the once-famous "Noisy Boy" and arrange a fight, where he is destroyed by "Midas". Attempting to scavenge parts of a new robot from a junkyard, Max discovers "Atom", an obsolete but intact sparring robot designed to withstand severe damage, and capable of mirroring its handler's movement due to its rare "shadow function" module.
At Max's behest, Charlie pits Atom against "Metro", whom Atom overcomes. Max convinces Charlie to control Atom, resulting in a series of victories and culminating with the offer of fighting "Twin Cities", a national champion in the World Robot Boxing. The fight starts with Atom on the attack, landing multiple punches guided by Charlie, who is using Noisy Boy's voice recognition programmed in Atom by Max. Twin Cities then gets on the offensive and corners Atom. Their opponent having no blind spot, Charlie notices a hitch whenever Twin Cities throws a right punch. Charlie is able to get Atom out of the corner and eventually win by knockout. Elated by their success, Max challenges global champion "Zeus", with the audience squarely on their side. After the fight, Ricky and his two henchmen attack and rob Charlie of his winnings, which prompts him to return Max to Debra.
This upsets Max, and when Charlie tries to convince him that living without him is better for Max, Max then says he always wanted Charlie to fight for him and be there as a father. After Max leaves, Charlie returns to Tallet's Gym. While talking with Bailey about the events, the two kiss, revealing their attraction to each other. Persuaded by Bailey, Charlie arranges the challenge offered by Max and convinces Debra to allow Max to witness the fight.
Zeus starts the fight by knocking Atom down with its first punch, but to the surprise of the audience and Zeus' camp, Atom gets up. Zeus continues its assault and knocks Atom down multiple times, but each time Atom gets up. Late in the first round while Atom is cornered, Charlie somehow is able to get Atom to land his first punch, a right uppercut. Atom survives the first round,stunning the audience. The two go back and forth through the fight, Atom landing multiple punches but also getting knocked down many times, getting up for each of them. Late in the fourth round, Atom's vocal-respond controls are damaged, forcing Charlie to activate its "shadow function" to make it mimic his boxing skills. Zeus's programmers are unable to compensate, forcing the designer to take control like Charlie has. Zeus is given a sound beating, but wins the match since Atom couldn't beat it within the limit of five rounds. Zeus remains "undefeated", but with the shame that it came from a technicality. Atom is labelled the "People's Champion".
- Hugh Jackman as Charles "Charlie" Kenton
- Dakota Goyo as Max Kenton
- Evangeline Lilly as Bailey Tallet
- Anthony Mackie as Finn
- Olga Fonda as Farra Lemkova
- Karl Yune as Tak Mashido
- Kevin Durand as Ricky
- Hope Davis as Debra
- James Rebhorn as Marvin
- John Gatins as Kingpin
- Atom the Dog as Dog
Real Steel was directed by Shawn Levy and is based on Richard Matheson's 1956 short story "Steel." The film was produced by DreamWorks Pictures, Reliance Entertainment, 21 Laps Entertainment, and Montford/Murphy Productions. The original screenplay was written by Dan Gilroy and was purchased by DreamWorks for $850,000 in 2003 or 2005 (sources differ). The project was one of 17 that DreamWorks took from Paramount Pictures when they split in 2008. Director Peter Berg expressed interest in the project in mid-2009 but went no further. Levy was attached to the project in September 2009, and Jackman was cast in the starring role in November for a $9 million fee. In the same month, Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider at DreamWorks greenlit the project. Les Bohem and Jeremy Leven had worked on Gilroy's screenplay, but in 2009 John Gatins was working on a new draft. When Levy joined the project, he worked with Gatins to revise the screenplay, spending a total of six weeks fine-tuning the script. Advertising company FIVE33 did a two-hundred page "bible" about robot boxing. Levy said he was invited by Spielberg and Snider while finishing Date Night, and while the director initially considered Real Steel to have "a crazy premise," he accepted after reading the script and feeling it could be "a really humanistic sports drama."
Real Steel had a production budget of $110 million. Levy chose to set the film in state fairs and other "old-fashioned" Americana settings that would exude nostalgia and create a warm tone for the film's father-son story. There was also an attempt for the scenery to blend in new and old technology. Filming began in June 2010, and ended by October 15, 2010. Locations include areas around Detroit, Michigan, and across the state, including at the Renaissance Center, the Cobo Arena, the Detroit Fire Department headquarters, the Russell Industrial Center, the Ingham County Courthouse in Mason, Michigan, the Leslie Michigan Railroad Depot, the former Belle Isle Zoo, and the Highland Park Ford Plant.
Jason Matthews of Legacy Effects, successor to Stan Winston Studios, was hired to turn production designer Tom Meyer's robot designs into practical animatronic props. He said, "We have 26-and-a-half total live-action robots that were made for this film. They all have hydraulic neck controls. Atom has RC [radio-controlled] hands as well." According to Jackman, executive producer Spielberg "actually said to Shawn, 'You should really have real elements where you can.' ... Basically if they're not walking or fighting, that's a real robot." Levy added that Spielberg gave the example of Jurassic Park, where Winston's animatronic dinosaurs "got a better performance from the actors, as they were seeing something real, and gave the visual effects team an idea of what it would look like." As Real Steel was not based on a toy, Meyer said that "there was no guideline" for the robots, and each was designed from scratch, with an attempt to put "different personality and aesthetics," according to Levy. In Atom's case, it tried to have a more humanizing design to be an "everyman" who could attract the audience's sympathy and serve as a proxy to the viewer, with a fencing mask that Meyer explained served to show "his identity was a bit hidden, so you have to work harder to get to see him." Executive producer Robert Zemeckis added that the mask "became a screen so we can project what we want on Atom's face." Damage was added to the robots' decoration to show how they were machines worn out by intense battles.
For scenes when computer-generated robots brawl, "simulcam" motion capture technology, developed for the film Avatar, was used. As Levy described the process, "[Y]ou're not only capturing the fighting of live human fighters, but you're able to take that and see it converted to [CGI] robots on a screen instantaneously. Simulcam puts the robots in the ring in real time, so you are operating your shots to the fight, whereas even three, four years ago, you used to operate to empty frames, just guessing at what stuff was going to look like." Boxing hall-of-famer Sugar Ray Leonard was an adviser for these scenes and gave Jackman boxing lessons so his moves would be more natural.
Real Steel had its world premiere on September 6, 2011, in Paris at the Le Grand Rex. The film had its United States premiere on October 2, 2011, in Los Angeles at the Gibson Amphitheatre. It was commercially released in Australia on October 6, 2011, followed by the United States and Canada on October 7, 2011. For the U.S. release, it was originally scheduled for release on November 18, 2011, but it was moved earlier to avoid competition with the first part of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn. The film was released in 3,440 theaters in the United States and Canada, including 270 IMAX screenings. There were also over 100 IMAX screenings in territories outside the United States and Canada, with 62 screenings on October 7.
DreamWorks released the first trailer for Real Steel in December 2010 and was attached to Tron: Legacy. In May 2011, DreamWorks released a second trailer. While the film features boxing robots, Levy said he wanted to show in the trailer "the father-son drama, the emotion Americana of it". He said, "We are very much the robo-boxing movie, but that's one piece of a broader spectrum." In addition to marketing trailers and posters, DreamWorks enlisted the British advertising company Five33 to build large physical displays representing the film as it had done for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. The studio also collaborated with Virgin America to name one of their Airbus A320s after the film, and one of the film's robots is pictured on its fuselage. On September 19, Jackman appeared on the weekly sports entertainment program WWE Raw to promote the film. In addition to Jackman making an appearance on the show, WWE named Crystal Method's "Make Some Noise" from the film's soundtrack as the official theme song for their returning PPV, Vengeance.
Jakks Pacific released a toy line with action figures based on Atom, Zeus, Noisy Boy, Midas and Twin Cities. The company has also released a one-on-one, playset fighting game with robots in a ring. ThreeA released a line of high-end sixth-scale figures, as adapted by Australian artist Ashley Wood, based on Ambush, Atom, Midas, and Noisy Boy.
The film was released on DVD, Blu-ray, and both high-definition and standard-definition digital download on January 24, 2012, from Touchstone Home Entertainment. Additional material includes Disney Second Screen; deleted and extended scenes with introductions by director Levy; and a profile of film consultant Sugar Ray Leonard.
Real Steel earned $85,468,508 in North America, and $213,800,000 in other territories, for a worldwide total of $299,268,508. It had a worldwide opening of $49.4 million. In North America, it topped the box office with $8.5 million on its opening day and $27.3 million in total on its opening weekend, claiming the number one spot, ahead of the other new nationwide release (The Ides of March) and all holdovers. It managed first-place debuts in 11 countries including Hugh Jackman's native Australia ($4.2 million).
Real Steel received mixed to positive reviews from critics. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives a rating of 59% based on reviews from 211 critics, with a rating average of 5.9 out of 10. The website's consensus is, "Silly premise notwithstanding, this is a well-made Hollywood movie: Thrilling and exciting action with just enough characterization." Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, gives the film a rating score of 56, based on 34 reviews. Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore during the opening weekend gave the film a grade A, on a scale from A plus to F.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times rated the film 3 stars out of 4, saying, "Real Steel is a real movie. It has characters, it matters who they are, it makes sense of its action, it has a compelling plot. Sometimes you go into a movie with low expectations and are pleasantly surprised." Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly gave the film an A-, saying director Levy "makes good use of his specialized skill in blending people and computer-made imaginary things into one lively, emotionally satisfying story".
Conversely, Claudia Puig of USA Today said, "Though the premise of fighting robots does seem a plausible and intriguing extension of the contemporary WWE world, Real Steel is hampered by leaden, clichéd moments in which a stubborn boy teaches his childish father a valuable lesson." James White of the UK magazine Empire gave the film 3 of 5 stars, saying, "Rocky with robots? It's not quite in Balboa's weight class, but Real Steel at least has some heft. There's barely a story beat among the beat-downs that you won't expect, and sometimes the saccharine gets in the way of the spectacle, but on the whole this is enjoyable family entertainment."
|People's Choice Awards||Hugh Jackman||Favorite Action Movie Star||Won|
|Young Artist Award||Dakota Goyo||Best Performance in a Feature Film - Leading Young Actor||Won|
|Saturn Award||Best Performance by a Young Actor||Nominated|
|Academy Awards||Erik Nash, John Rosengrant, Danny Gordon Taylor, and Swen Gillberg||Best Visual Effects||Nominated|
Real Steel's soundtrack consists of 13 tracks featuring artists including Tom Morello, Eminem, Royce da 5'9" (Bad Meets Evil), Yelawolf, 50 Cent, Limp Bizkit and Foo Fighters. Levy, a fan of The Crystal Method, invited that duo to contribute to the soundtrack; they recorded two new songs for it after viewing a rough cut of the film.
|Real Steel - Music From The Motion Picture|
|1.||"Fast Lane"||Bad Meets Evil||4:12|
|2.||"Here's A Little Something For Ya"||Beastie Boys||3:09|
|3.||"Miss The Misery"||Foo Fighters||4:32|
|4.||"The Enforcer"||50 Cent||3:25|
|5.||"Make Some Noise (Put 'em Up)"||The Crystal Method||3:27|
|6.||"'Till I Collapse"||Eminem||4:59|
|7.||"One Man Army"||The Prodigy||4:15|
|8.||"Give It A Go"||Timbaland, Veronica||4:20|
|9.||"The Midas Touch"||Tom Morello||3:28|
|10.||"Why Try"||Limp Bizkit||2:53|
|12.||"All My Days"||Alexi Murdoch||4:56|
The score album, "Real Steel: Original Motion Picture Score", consists of 19 tracks composed by Danny Elfman, and was released on November 1, 2011, in the US. Levy considered Elfman one of the few composers who could do a score similar to that of the Rocky franchise, alternating guitar-based ambient music and songs with a full orchestra.
All music composed by Danny Elfman.
|1.||"Charlie Trains Atom"||1:59|
|2.||"On The Move"||2:39|
|3.||"Into The Zoo"||1:02|
|4.||"Why We're Here (feat. vocal by Poe)"||0:55|
|6.||"It's Your Choice"||1:28|
|7.||"Safe With Me"||2:57|
|8.||"Atom Versus Twin Cities"||3:12|
|9.||"...For A Kiss"||0:56|
|10.||"Get In The Truck"||1:12|
|12.||"Twin Cities' Intro"||1:20|
|13.||"Parkway Motel (feat. vocal by Poe)"||1:47|
|14.||"This Is A Brawl"||1:48|
|15.||"You Deserve Better"||4:02|
|16.||"Into The Ring"||1:12|
|17.||"Taking A Beating"||1:33|
In April 2011, DreamWorks announced it was developing a sequel, and that John Gatins, who wrote the screenplay for the first film, was hired to script the second. Touchstone Pictures, which distributed the first, will co-produce and co-finance, with DreamWorks, and distribute the film. Director Shawn Levy said in September 2011 that a sequel is possible depending on the success of the first film and that he would also direct it. The key actors Jackman, Lilly, and Goyo would reprise their roles if the studio proceeded with a sequel, though the production schedule would need to match Jackman's crowded schedule.
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