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F9 star Vin Diesel to roll with the mechanical punches in Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots movie

By Josh Weiss

AND IN THIS CORNER: He's been a WWII soldier, a race car driver, a sentient tree, and now...a Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robot? It's complicated. Vin Diesel could very well be choosing red or blue in an upcoming film adaptation of the iconic children's game in which two players "box" with a pair of mechanical fighters, attempting to knock their opponent's head off (metaphorically, of course; we're not endorsing genuine decapitation here).

Diesel (who is set to return to the big screen this summer in F9) will produce and star in the live-action project hailing from Mattel Films and Universal Pictures. Rampage and The Commuter scribe Ryan Engle penned the script, which centers around a father and son who form an unlikely bond with "an advanced war machine," teases Mattel. We wouldn't be surprised if the duo train up the machine for violent fighting bouts with other bots in the style of Real Steel. Just don't be surprised if Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots is only loosely based on its source material.

As Battleship taught us, it's incredibly hard to build a plot on something that inherently has no narrative. It'll certainly be interesting to see how Diesel and company construct a storytelling scaffold around the small, plastic boxing ring that was first erected in 1966.

“To take the classic Rock 'Em Sock 'Em game, with Mattel as my partner, and align it with the kind of world building, franchise making success we have had with Universal, is truly exciting," Diesel — who, along with Samantha Vincent, is producing via his One Race Films banner — said in a statement.

“We are proud to bring this iconic piece of Mattel IP to life on the big screen with our tremendously talented partners Vin Diesel, One Race Films and Universal,” added Robbie Brenner, executive producer of Mattel Films. “Our rich library of franchises continues to yield compelling stories and we look forward to creating what is sure to be a thrilling action adventure for the whole family to enjoy with Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots.” 

Mattel is, quite literally, getting its head in the Hollywood game with a rich docket of films and shows based on its extensive library of beloved games. Earlier this year, we learned that Lil Yachty is producing a feature adaptation of UNO, while Whac-A-Mole was scooped up for the reality game show treatment.

And Mattel doesn't just have games — it also has a gallery of well-known characters like WishnoneThomas the Tank Engine, and He-Man. All three franchises are getting their own silver screen outings from directors Peter Farrelly, Marc Forster, and Adam and Aaron Nee, respectively. There's even a Hot Wheels project speeding down the track from writers Neil Weidener and Gavin James, who — like Engle — are responsible for a larger-than-life genre adventure starring The Rock (that'd be San Andreas).

SYFY WIRE and Universal Pictures are properties of NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation.