Shawn Levy is a busy man. As you heard yesterday, he’s hard at work at developing a feature film adaptation of the Uncharted video game series. He’s currently also heavily involved with breakout TV series of the year Stranger Things, is developing about seven other announced TV properties, and he’s slated to do a remake of John Carpenter classic Starman. Like I said, busy. However, if it was up to several of his fans, he would get busy with one more project: A sequel to Real Steel.
Released in 2011, the family sci-fi movie is set in the near future when robot boxing is a top sport, and followed washed up promoter Charlie Kent on (Hugh Jackman) who discovers an old fighter bot that he thinks he can turn into a champ. Yes, it was a movie about Wolverine training robots to fight. How could you not love that?!
Well lots of people did love it – and the movie even garnered an Oscar nomination for its VFX – and as Levy explained to Collider, those fans really want a follow up.
The most frequent tweet I get is about the sequel to Real Steel. I wish I had a conclusive answer. Here’s the truth: We started developing a sequel like six months before the movie came out. We knew as soon as we started previewing this movie and it was getting mid to high 90s at every test screening. It happens really rarely, but the movie had something that audiences responded to and so we started coming up with ideas for the sequel.
But if they were already busy with a sequel before the first movie was even released, then why is it 2016 and there’s still nothing to show for it? Because sequels are hard, man.
The simple truth, the most concise truth I can express, is that it proved, and it has proven, really hard to come up with a sequel that doesn’t feel like a re-hash of the first movie. Yeah, people wanted to see Atom beat Zeus, I would love to see Atom beat Zeus, but you don’t want to retell the story of kind of an alienation between Charlie and Max because that is really the plot of the first movie.
Atom was of course the name of the old robot discovered in scrapyard by Charlie and his estranged son. A sparring bot, built purely to withstand huge amounts of damage as other bots practiced on it, it had also had special ability: a rare “shadow function” module that lets it mimic the movements of another fighter. This allowed Charlie to shadow box outside the ring while Atom copied his movements inside the ring.
And it appears that that’s probably not the only trick that Atom had up its robotic sleeve.
There’s one aspect to this movie that got cut out; it was in the movie and Steven always loved it. You know that scene where it’s pre-fight with the Twin Cities and Atom sees himself in the mirror? There was … my God, I’ve never actually shared this … but when the movie first came out, people were like, “I saw Atom move! Atom moved! He definitely moved, right? He has consciousness?” And I kind of fell back into this stock answer of, “I don’t know. It’s whatever you want to decide for yourself.” But when we shot that scene, he absolutely moved. He recognizes himself. There was a whole moment—I think it’s okay to say all this now that it’s been five years—but there’s a moment where, before the fifth round of the final fight, they’re like, “We’re throwin’ in the towel, it’s over,” and Max and Charlie are arguing, and we see Atom in the background raise his finger and give like a “one more time” gesture. In script, you’re like, “That’s fucking awesome! That’s gonna be goosebumps! It confirms the sentient nature of Atom.” But when we put the movie together, it felt like, as warm-hearted as the movie was, that was one degree too fairy tale for that movie.
Yes, that may have been too schmaltzy, but it would actually have been the kernel for a possible sequel.
One area that I still would love to explore is that notion of how was Atom built? What is it about his design that might have embedded some artificial or organic intelligence and consciousness, such that he is self-aware to some extent? So all I’ll say is, we’ve attempted it a few times with a number of writers, and no draft got me, Hugh, and Steven all there to a yes in the same moment. It all felt like it wasn’t quite enough to promise a new story and a new movie.
And according to Levy, he’s not just going to make a sequel for the sake of making a sequel.
I have to tell you, I had a weird experience watching it tonight because on one hand it felt really good to revisit an old friend, but it also weirdly cemented my conviction that I just shouldn’t make a sequel unless I’m sure it will be better.
Well I can certainly respect that. Rather make it right or don’t make it at all. That being said, I would still love to see Charlie and Atom kicking robo-butt once again.
Last Updated: November 11, 2016