The Steel in Real Steel

Yes, this post is about Dreamworks’ movie Real Steel, but no, it’s not a review.  You wouldn’t be faulted for thinking so, based on the title, but full disclosure is that I haven’t seen the movie. 

I could review the trailer because as so many trailers do these days, it tells me essentially the whole story.  Hugh Jackman, usually – and seemingly here – very charismatic, is Charlie, a former boxer in need of money.  He puts together a robot to fight in a future where “the fight game changed.”  Humans no longer get in the ring; the fighting is done by robots.  They are big and powerful and probably look great on the big screen.  The character is doing this for his son (shades of The Champ).  It all looks pretty entertaining and, to date, has grossed nearly $70 million (per www.boxofficemojo.com). 

The first time I saw a reference – a blurb in Entertainment Weekly, if I remember – for this movie, I automatically thought of an episode of The Twilight Zone.  It too referenced the metal – the episode was called just plain Steel – and starred Lee Marvin as “Steel” Kelly, a former boxer in need of money.  He owns an out-of-date (nearly obsolete) boxing robot and is desperate for the fee that he will earn if his own robot makes it through (or even to) a bout scheduled with a technologically advanced bruiser of a ‘bot.  This episode was written by Richard Matheson and based on his own short story. 

In the literary world, it’s been said that there are only two or three stories: someone goes on a journey, a stranger comes to town, or someone falls in love.  While I don’t buy this completely, I do believe that themes and characters and plots overlap and that there are times those of separate works tread in a very small pool.  Even so, these two (Real Steel and Steel) couldn’t be unrelated, right? 

Right.  A search of IMDB (under Connections) clearly states that the new movie is a version of “Twilight Zone: Steel (#5.2).” 

So, what’s my point?  

Could it be to give additional credit to a renowned author (Matheson) who is celebrated as a major contributor to one of the best television series of all time, has numerous books and stories to his name, and major motion pictures (including Will Smith’s I Am Legend) already based on his work?

 Why, yes, as a matter of fact it is.

 Like I said, you can find the connection between the original author and this second-generation descendant if you look for it.  But who’s going to do this?  (Besides me.)  An opportunity to tie a current moneymaker to, and deflect a little spotlight toward, such a distinguished ancestor is one worth taking.

 I will not compare the merits of the small futuristic (set in1974!) black-and-white drama presented by The Twilight Zone (I know, at that point: Twilight Zone, sans “The”) in 1963 and the massive futuristic movie on screens now.  I would be happy to sit and watch either, although I have a feeling (currently unfounded, mind you) that one might be a little heavier on effects than story.

 But I do recommend that if you enjoy Real Steel in the theater, then take some time to check out the “real” Steel on the small screen.

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