“Steel” is a Season 5 episode of “The Twilight Zone,” which aired in 1963 and was written by Richard Matheson from his short story of the same name. It’s an okay episode, a morality tale about humanity’s tenacity in the face of a future that might make them obsolete. Boxing robots are used to drive the point home.
“Real Steel” credits Matheson with its original story, and the results are arguably better than its first adaptation. It doesn’t hurt that we have Hugh Jackman as unlucky former boxer Charlie. What really holds the film together isn’t just Charlie’s relationship with his estranged son, Max (Dakota Goyo). This is the dirty reality that pervades the underworld of robot combat. The film’s cinematography leans somewhat on the neon and near-future aesthetic, but it’s also dirty. It’s riddled with trash and trash, and happy endings aren’t easy to come by.
So it’s surprising that the ending is melancholic but still struggles for hope, the kind of finale Matheson would have approved of. “Real Steel” continues to have a following in various stages of development, and if it retains that level of world-building and an understanding of Matheson’s style, we can’t wait to see it.