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Emmys 2017
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'Real Steel': What will they borrow from 'Rocky' for the sequel?

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Well before Real Steel‘s release to surprisingly good reviews, producers were talking about a sequel. Of course, they’ll still have to wait to see how the Hugh Jackman robot boxing flick holds up at the box office before they get the official green light, but last week, while being interviewed at NYC’s 92nd Street Y, director Shawn Levy told the crowd he’d been told to start thinking up the next chapter right in the story after the movie’s first test screening. The lead robot, Atom, and the young boy who plays Jackman’s son in the film, Dakota Goyo, scored as well as Jackman did.

So what might we see in a sequel? Goyo’s character, Max, would be entering adolescence, a time when he could be discovering what it means to be a man and searching for someone to emulate, Levy said. Also, we’d get Atom’s origin story and more of the backstory for Jackman’s character, former boxer Charlie. (Levy revealed fans will get a tease of the latter when the movie hits Blu-ray because they shot a 20-minute 30 for 30-style sports documentary on Charlie that will surely end up there.) He also promised an audience member asking about the female characters in the film that Evangeline Lilly’s Bailey will be more fleshed out, too. (In addition, he shared that he’d shot a scene in which we learned what happened to Max’s mother but later decided it got the audience too emotional too early. Perhaps that’ll make the bonus features, too.)

Of course, the real question is what Levy will borrow from Rocky for Round 2. I’d say Real Steel‘s final bout was a combination of SPOILER! the first Rocky (just going the distance is winning), Rocky III (just like Rocky let Clubber Lang exhaust himself, Atom let Zeus’ battery run out before pounding him), and Rocky IV (like Drago, Zeus was high-tech, while Atom went back to basics and shadowed Charlie’s human boxing). They could keep it simple and go the Rocky II route: Zeus’ makers want a rematch to prove Atom’s success was a fluke, and Charlie reluctantly agrees. But then his heart isn’t into it until skeptical Bailey, who was injured in an accident for which he is somehow to blame, wakes up from a coma and tells him to kick robot ass. Or, they could go big and pay homage to Rocky III, Rocky IV, and (gulp) Rocky V: Charlie’s such a phenomenon after defeating Zeus in a rematch (that’s the rousing opening, along with a montage of title defenses) that he loses the eye of the tiger. Robot boxing is totally ripe for an over-the-top “Living in America” production number (and we’ve already established that young Max is a showman), so you get a big star to cameo à la James Brown for the pre-show for the bout that Charlie loses. Now he has to claw his way back to badassness by, of course, first accepting responsibility for turning into a douche, finding faith in himself again, and remembering (to quote Rocky Balboa, bonus!) it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. (That’s what it means to be a man, kid.) And then, Charlie learns a new style of boxing to defeat the hungry rival that humiliated him in the ring Clubber Lang-style. Levy wants to keep this story about the humans, not the robots, so you know, maybe it ends like Rocky V with a street brawl (in, like, the parking lot or basement of a sports complex) between Charlie and Atom and the reigning champ and his shadowboxing robot. So Charlie isn’t doing this so the world sees him as a champion. All he cares about is that his son looks at him again the way he did when he watched Charlie box for Atom in the first Zeus fight. (I’ll admit that gave me chills, but I didn’t cry!)

Your turn. What’s your best guess for the plot of Real Steel 2? I think Atom definitely has to shadowbox, otherwise, you lose that powerful human through-line. (Levy, by the way, said that twist wasn’t in the original script. When he met with exec producer Steven Spielberg to talk about directing the film, Levy told him Atom had to shadowbox in the fifth and final round. It’s impossible to imagine the film without that emotional punch, isn’t it?) Do you think Atom should be destroyed when cocky Charlie loses the bout? That would certainly drive a wedge between him and Max. Or would that be too cruel?

Read more:

Lisa Schwarzbaum reviews ‘Real Steel’

‘Real Steel’: Meet the Robots

Sugar, spice and ‘Real Steel’: Why robots should be for girls (and moms) too.

Box office report: ‘Real Steel’ is the champion with $27.3 mil