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SYFY WIRE Real Steel

Disney+ getting in on the rock 'em sock 'em robot action with 'Real Steel' TV series in the works

The 2011 movie was inspired by a short sci-fi story written by Richard Matheson.

By Josh Weiss
Real Steel (2011) YT

Gears will fly, motors will be crushed, and hydraulic fluid will spill in an upcoming television adaptation of Real SteelVariety brings word that the small screen project — based on Shawn Levy's 2011 film of the same name — has entered the early stages of development at Disney+. No writer is attached yet and it's unconfirmed whether it's meant to be a follow-up or some kind of reboot. 

Levy (a producer of Stranger Things and director of this past summer's Free Guy) is on board to executive produce the series under his prolific 41 Laps banner. He confirmed the news on his Instagram story Thursday, writing: "This one's for all the fans who never forgot."

Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future), Jack Rapke (Manifest), Susan Montford (Vampire Academy), and Don Murphy (Bumblebee) are also back as producers, with Jacqueline Levine (a regular Zemeckis collaborator) joining the team behind-the-scenes.

Based on a science fiction short story written by Richard Matheson, Real Steel takes place in a near future where traditional boxing has become obsolete. Instead of fighting each other, humans build and train rugged robots to bash each other into oblivion (think monster truck rallies on steroids) for champion titles. Matheson's story (simply titled "Steel") was previously adapted into a classic episode of the original iteration of the The Twilight Zone, which adhered much closer to the the source material.

The movie version written by John Gatins (Flight, Kong: Skull Island) is a looser adaptation with brand-new characters. Hugh Jackman stars as Charlie Kenton, a once-great prizefighter who gets a shot at redemption when he's asked to train an underdog machine that has almost no hope of winning any professional matches. The film also stars a number of other Marvel movie vets like Kevin Durand (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), Anthony Mackie (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier), and Evangeline Lilly (Ant-Man and the Wasp).

Released into theaters in the fall of 2010, Real Steel punched its way to just under $300 million at the global box office and a 60 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. A sequel was never produced, mainly due to Jackman's personal aversion to sequels (the X-Men universe being the obvious exception to the rule).

While there were some ideas floating around, "none of them felt fully formed," Levy explained to Entertainment Weekly, which celebrated the film's 10th anniversary by putting together an oral history of its production. However, both he and Jackman started to revisit the property after it became available to stream on Netflix during the COVID-19 lockdown nearly two years ago. Perhaps this is when the seed for a TV show started to grow in their minds.

"It became one of their top trending and most viewed titles, which led to Hugh and I talking again about, 'Wow, what is this? This love for Real Steel?'" the director told Inverse back in August. "And kind of this realization that, 'Well wait, we love it that much too. We've always loved it that much too. So it's one of those, never say never. And even though it feels like the clock has run out on that window of opportunity. It feels like that fan love and that audience hasn't gone away. So who knows?"

Around the same time, Levy mused about the idea of a Real Steel sequel with Jackman starring opposite Ryan Reynolds. "I'm friends with Hugh. I'm friends with Ryan. I will get them together," he said during a conversation with "Whether it's in Real Steel or another movie, I will direct those two amazing guys and dear friends in a movie together."

The Disney+ series isn't the only rock 'em sock 'em robots project now in development. An actual Rock 'Em Sock 'Em robots movie (based on the iconic toy) is currently moving forward at Universal Pictures. Vin Diesel has been tapped to star in the title from Mattel Films, which centers around a father and son who form an unlikely bond with an "an advanced war machine." As of right now, we don't know if Diesel will play the father or harken back to his Iron Giant roots by voicing the robot.

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