The life of a movie like director Shawn Levy’s Real Steel used to be a streamlined affair. Under the more traditional model that solely relied on theatrical and home video release, you’d put a movie like the Hugh Jackman-starring robot brawler into the world through those two channels, in that exact order. And no matter how diehard the fanbase for such a movie after the fact, it took either a huge theatrical success, or a strong and respectable home video showing, to keep a potential franchise in the game. And yet, despite those odds seeming to have stymied any movement on a potential sequel to Levy’s 2011 movie, it looks like there’s new hope for a sequel that’s being sparked at this very moment, thanks to Real Steel’s recent amazing performance on Netfilx.
While discussing the Shawn Levy-produced Love and Monsters on behalf of CinemaBlend, I had to ask the man who directed Real Steel if he had noticed the response that his film racked up upon its inclusion in the Netflix library. Enthusiastically, over a phone connection that spanned time zones, Levy repeatedly, and gleefully, said one word: “Yes.” Knowing full well that the legacy of his robot boxing film was firmly in the world’s mind, I pushed a little further and asked if after almost a decade of dormancy, Atom might be pulled from mothballs and given another fighting chance. To this question, Shawn Levy provided the following Real Steel update:
Shawn Levy: I will admit that I definitely exchanged some emails and conversations on the topic
Me: With Hugh [Jackman] or with studio emails?
Shawn Levy: Maybe both. That’s all I’m going to say about that.
My conversation with Shawn Levy proved an important point that any fan of his works should know from this moment on: when the man really loves something, it doesn’t matter if it’s nine days or nine years since a project of his has come out. Mr. Levy is going to pursue it, in its due time, with all of his energy; and it’s not like the man has a shortage of projects to be concerned about.
Currently, his first feature film directorial effort in years, Free Guy, is teeing up for a December release into theaters. In addition, Shawn Levy is also a producer on Stranger Things, which is getting back on track with shooting its fourth season. Of course, Levy is a producer on the long in-development Love and Monsters, which he climbed on board of eight years ago and has had a hand in ever since. So you can see where his attitude of sticking with the stuff that really moves him comes from.
It should also come as no surprise that Real Steel taking a third place position on Netflix a couple weeks back pleased another collaborator involved with the project. The news of this particular movie’s newfound success is also a delight to Hugh Jackman himself, who Shawn Levy has definitely been in touch with in the aftermath. Recalling how both he and Jackman reacted to the news, Levy continued his story on his reaction to this twist of fate unfolded:
The viewership of Real Steel on Netflix has been nothing short of phenom status. For a decade-old movie to be locked in the top 3 most viewed things on Netflix, for damned near a week after it launched, it was surreal to see. But for Hugh and I, who were texting furiously through that moment, I have to tell you it was genuinely thrilling. And really gratifying, because Real Steel has always been and will always be one of our favorite movies that we’ve made.
An almost 10-year-old movie hits it big on Netflix, bringing it up to the third spot on the Top 10, with that feat in itself representing the highest non-original title on the platform at that particularly given time. That sort of magic is cool, and it’s also a definite sign that Real Steel is something that people have been paying attention to. However, the biggest surprise about this result is that it isn’t some sort of fluke where the internet discovered the film by accident. Rather, the undercurrent of love for the Kenton family’s adventure in robotics is something that’s not only connected to the film’s modest success in 2011, but has kept the film in the minds of so many that have engaged in it as time has gone on. Rounding out our conversation on the matter, Shawn Levy offered the following reflection:
The enduring fan love for Real Steel across multiple generations has been so out of proportion to its box office. You know, it did well; it made like $310 million, so it was hardly a failure. But it also wasn’t a blockbuster. And yet, for 10 years, there’s nothing I’ve ever done that I get tweeted more about than Real-goddamned-Steel. When the Netflix launch kind of proved yet again the enduring love for that movie, it was bizarre to see, but it made me very very happy.
The culture of the internet has been known to revive the fortunes of movies that it favors, and Real Steel’s current Netflix showing only proves this fact all the better for studios to pay attention to. So if you’re one of the film’s many fans from its initial release, or if you jumped into the fray after discovering the film through streaming, know that there’s still hope for Real Steel to return. Until then, you can continue to check the film out on Netflix, as well as for free with ads on IMDb TV. And don’t forget to see Love and Monsters, which opens today in limited theatrical release, as well as on VOD! Either way, larger than life thrills await those who are looking for them in these interesting times.
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October 16, 2020