Director: Shawn Levy
Writer: Dan Gilroy (story), Jeremy Leven (story), John Gatins, Richard Matheson (short story)
Cast: Hugh Jackman (Charlie Kenton), Dakota Goyo (Max Kenton), Evangeline Lilly (Bailey Tallet), Anthony Mackie (Finn), Kevin Durand (Ricky), Hope Davis (Aunt Debra), James Rebhorn (Marvin), Marco Ruggeri (Cliff), Karl Yune (Tak Mashido), Olga Fonda (Farra Lemkova)
Genres: Action, Drama, Sci-Fi, Sport
Released: October 7, 2011 (USA)
Running time: 127 minutes
MPAA: PG-13 — violence, intense action, brief language
Set in the near future, where robot boxing is a top sport, a struggling promoter feels he’s found a champion in a discarded robot. During his hopeful rise to the top, he discovers he has an 11-year-old son who wants to know his father.
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• Michigan was chosen to film this movie by director Shawn Levy because he was blown away by the Model T Automobile plant in Highland Park near Detroit. He felt it was the perfect set for the first fight scene called Crash Palace in the film. No other location he visited in New Mexico, Los Angeles, or Georgia came close.
• The third film of director Shawn Levy to be released in the IMAX format. The other two are Night at the Museum and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.
• Much of the robot boxing fights were motion-captured using professional boxers, supervised by Sugar Ray Leonard.
• In an apparent nod to Rocky, the world champion robot is named “Zeus”, while in Rocky, the champion is named “Apollo” Creed. In Greek mythology, Apollo is the son of Zeus.
• In an obvious nod to the iconic game “Rock’em, Sock’em, Robots”, during the Atom/Zeus fight, Mashido assumes manual control of Zeus and grabs two simple joysticks and moves them back and forth operating Zeus exactly as done in the board game. The Generation 1 robot boxer head seen in the junkyard is also from the same game.
• The film is based on “Steel” – a 1956 short story by I Am Legend author Richard Matheson. It was also made into an episode of Twilight Zone called Steel.
• The girls who ask to pose for a picture with Ambush are director Shawn Levy’s daughters.
• As announced at the rodeo in the beginning of the movie, director Shawn Levy has confirmed that the film takes place in 2020. He stated in an interview: “The whole reason it’s 2020 and not further in the future is because I knew this movie was going to be an underdog story and I didn’t want the distant futurism of extreme sci-fi. I wanted the world to feel really familiar, so that the characters would feel really relatable. The cell-phone we used five or ten years ago looks different from today, but a diner still looks like a diner.”
• Each of the robots were built both in real life and CGI. For certain shots with animatronics, they were controlled by more than 20 puppeteers.
• Midas’ Mohawk hairstyle is designed after the roman centurion helmet and was also a nod to “Clubber” Lang, Mr.T’s character in Rocky III.
• The movie references professional wrestler The Rock as Ricky says at the beginning of the first fight in the movie, the one in the ranch, “…lay the smackdown”, a typical catchphrase of the former. The robot is also declared “The People’s Champion” at the end of the movie, one of The Rock’s nicknames.
• In the scene where Atom is about to enter the ring before fighting Zeus, Hugh Jackman (who has made public before his admiration for boxer Manny Pacquiao), was seen carrying a case for Atom’s remote control. On that box was a sticker of the Philippine flag, the country where Pacquiao was born.
• Charlie Kenton’s idea to wear down Zeus’s power supply by allowing him to repeatedly land blows on Atom was in fact a technique used by real life professional boxer Muhammad Ali. Nicknamed the ‘rope-a-dope,’ Ali utilized the strategy to tire fellow boxer George Foreman, a much stronger opponent than himself, and eventually gain victory. Ali famously angered Foreman with phrases such as “Is that all you got, George?” during the fight, mirrored in the film by Kenton’s taunting hand gesture.
Bailey Tallet: 1200 miles for a kiss.
Charlie Kenton: Worth it. So worth it.
Max Kenton: So what do we do?
Charlie Kenton: We fight smart, be patient and pray. Seriously, pray!
Charlie Kenton: What do you want from me?
Max Kenton: I want you to fight for me! That’s all I ever wanted!
Charlie Kenton: You know your taking him home in pieces.
Max Kenton: We’ll see.
Max Kenton: We can’t win, can we?
Charlie Kenton: We’ll see.
Max Kenton: You screwed me!
Charlie Kenton: Nice mouth.
Charlie Kenton: How old are you? 9? 10?
Max Kenton: I’m 11.
Charlie Kenton: Okay… are you sure?
Max Kenton: Yes. I’m sure I’m eleven.
Charlie Kenton: Max, Max, I… I really want you to know, no, I need you to know that…
Max Kenton: I know. Don’t worry. You’re secrets safe with me.
Max Kenton: The People’s Champion? Sounds pretty good to me.
Charlie Kenton: Are you kidding me with those eyes?
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RICHARD MATHESON’S STEEL