Real Steel is a 2011 American science fiction sports drama 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, andmotion 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 and received to mixed to positive reviews; with mixed reaction to the plot, yet praise to 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 the robot "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 up 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 has 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 and Max, and Bailey Tallet (Evangeline Lilly), the daughter of Charlie's boxing coach, acquire the once-famous robot "Noisy Boy" and arrange a fight, in which Noisy Boy is destroyed. Attempting to scavenge parts of a new robot, Max discovers "Atom", an obsolete but intact robot designed to withstand severe damage, and capable of mimicking its handler's motion.

At Max's behest, Charlie pits Atom against the robot "Metro", whom Atom overcomes. Max convinces Charlie to train Atom, resulting in a series of victories culminating upon national champion "Twin Cities". Elated by their successive victories, Max declares to challenge global champion "Zeus". Immediately, Ricky and two henchmen attack and rob Charlie, who thereupon returns Max to his aunt; but persuaded by Bailey, Charlie arranges the challenge offered by Max and convinces Debra to allow Max to witness the fight. Ricky bets $100,000 that Atom will not last the first round against Zeus, but loses his bet and is cornered by the fight's bookmakers. In the penultimate round, Atom's vocal controls are damaged, whereupon Charlie guides the robot through shadow mode to weaken and overwhelm Zeus; but is unable to win within allotted time. Zeus is declared the winner by number of blows inflicted; but the near-defeat leaves the Zeus team humiliated, and 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
  • Sophie Levy as Big Sister
  • Tess Levy as Little Sister
  • Charlie Levy as Littlest Sister
  • Gregory Sims as Bill Panner
  • Torey Adkins as Large Texan Man
  • Tom Carlson as San Leandro Gentleman #1
  • John Hawkinson as San Leandro Gentleman #2
  • David Alan Basche as ESPN Boxing Commentator
  • Phil LaMarr as ESPN Boxing Commentator
  • David Herbst as Starblaze Arena Reporter
  • Julian Gant as Starblaze Arena Reporter
  • Ken Alter as Virgin America Spectrum Ring Announcer
  • Leilani Barrett as Virgin America Spectrum Ref
  • Eric Gutman as WRB Promoter
  • Nicholas Yu as Twin Cities Corner Tech
  • D.B. Dickerson as Twin Cities Controller
  • Peter Carey as Bing Arena Announcer
  • Dan Lemieux as Bing Arena Ref
  • Richard Goteri as Older Gentleman
  • Tim Holmes as Blacktop Controllor
  • Ricky Wayne as Underground Promoter
  • Taris Tyler as Robot Promoter
  • Kevin Dorman as Atom Performance Capture
  • John Manfredi as Sergei Lemkova


Director Levy on set with Jackman in July 2010

Real Steel is directed by Shawn Levy and is based on Richard Matheson's 1956 short story "Steel."[4] The film was produced by DreamWorks Pictures, Reliance Entertainment, 21 Laps Entertainment, and Montford/Murphy Productions.[5] The original screenplay was written by Dan Gilroy and was purchased by DreamWorks for $850,000 in 2003 or 2005 (sources differ).[4][6]The project was one of 17 that DreamWorks took from Paramount Pictures when they split in 2008.[4] Director Peter Bergexpressed interest in the project in mid-2009 but went no further.[6] Levy was attached to the project in September 2009,[7] and Jackman was cast in the starring role in November for a $9 million fee.[8] In the same month, Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider at DreamWorks greenlit the project.[4] Les Bohem and Jeremy Leven had worked on Gilroy's screenplay, but in 2009 John Gatins was working on a new draft.[6] When Levy joined the project, he worked with Gatins to revise the screenplay,[9]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 consideredReal Steel to have "a crazy premise," he accepted after reading the script and feeling it could be "a really humanistic sports drama."[10]

Real Steel had a production budget of $110 million.[2] 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.[11] There was also an attempt for the scenery to blend in new and old technology.[10] Filming began in June 2010,[12] and ended by October 15, 2010.[13] Locations include areas around Detroit, Michigan, and across the state,[14] including at the Renaissance Center, the Cobo Arena, the Detroit Fire Departmentheadquarters, the Russell Industrial Center, the Ingham County Courthouse in Mason, Michigan, the former Belle Isle Zoo, and the Highland Park Ford Plant.[15]

Jason Matthews of Legacy Effects, successor to Stan Winston Studios, was hired to turn production designer Tom Meyer's robot designs into practical animatronicprops. 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."[16] 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."[17] 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."[18] 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.[10]

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."[19] Boxing hall-of-famer Sugar Ray Leonard was an adviser for these scenes[11] and gave Jackman boxing lessons so his moves would be more natural.[20]


Real Steel had its world premiere on September 6, 2011, in Paris at the Le Grand Rex.[21] The film had its United States premiere on October 2, 2011, in Los Angeles at the Gibson Amphitheatre.[22] It was commercially released in Australia on October 6, 2011,[23] 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,[12] but it was moved earlier to avoid competition with the first part of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn.[24] The film was released in 3,440 theaters in the United States and Canada,[25] including 270 IMAX screenings. There will also be over 100 IMAX screenings in territories outside the United States and Canada, with 62 screening on October 7.[26]


DreamWorks released the first trailer for Real Steel in December 2010. and was attached to Tron: Legacy[27] 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."[28] 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.[29] 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.[30] On September 19, Jackman appeared on the weekly sports entertainment program WWE Raw to promote the film.[31] 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.[citation needed] The company has also released a one-on-one, playset fighting game with robots in a ring.[32]

Jump Games released a fighting video game based on the film for Android and iOS devices,[33] and Yuke's has made a game for the PS3 and Xbox 360[34]

Home media

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.[35][36]


Box office

Real Steel earned $85,468,508 in North America, and $213,800,000 in other territories, for a worldwide total of $299,268,508.[37] It had a worldwide opening of $49.4 million.[38] 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.[39] It managed first-place debuts in 11 countries including Hugh Jackman's native Australia ($4.2 million).[40]

Critical response

Real Steel received mixed to positive reviews from critics, with the aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes listing 60% of 210 critics giving a positive review, 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."[41] 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.[42] CinemaScore polls reported that the average grade moviegoers gave the film was an A on an A plus to F scale.[43]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times rated the film three out of four stars, 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."[44] Conversely, Claudia Puig of USA Today said that, "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."[45] 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".[46]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."[47]


Award Nominee Category Result Ref.
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 [48]
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 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.[10]

[show]Real Steel - Music From The Motion Picture[49]

The score album of "Real Steel: Original Motion Picture Score" consists of 19 tracks composed by Danny Elfman; released 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.[10]

All music composed by Danny Elfman.

[show]Real Steel[50]


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.[51]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 a sequel depended 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.[52]

See also

  • "Steel" (The Twilight Zone), a 1963 episode of The Twilight Zone also based on Richard Matheson's short story
  • List of sports films – Boxing
  • Pluto, Naoki Urasawa's manga adaptation of an Astroboy arc which also incorporates robot tournament fighting.


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