Or, as it's become known on the Internet, Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots: The Movie.A 2011 film (loosely) based on a Richard Matheson story first adapted for The Twilight Zone, Real Steel takes place Twenty Minutes into the Future, where human boxers have been supplanted by robotic warriors who can dish out and take far more damage. Former boxer Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) now works on the outside of the ring as a robot handler, exhibiting in town fairs and underground robot fights to make ends meet, when he suddenly gets his estranged son Max dropped in his lap after the boy's mother dies.Needless to say, neither Charlie or Max take well to this at first, but they slowly manage to bond over Atom - an obsolete robot they find in the junkyard after Charlie's previous 'bot gets trashed, with the ability to mimic the moves of others and the resilience to survive just about any punishment. Together they rebuild Atom and train him to fight, aiming for the championships through the underground scene for Charlie's last shot at a comeback.Executive produced by Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis, although not directed by either (step forward Shawn Levy).
A video about Atom also explains his origins: He was a Sparring Robot for former Robot champion Gamma.
The Blu-Ray has Charlie's background in a fake ESPN documentary.
All Your Powers Combined: Atom fights with arm components from Ambush note Atom as a sparring 'bot basically had "kid gloves" to avoid damaging the actual boxing 'bot, the voice command processor from Noisy Boy, courtesy of Max, and Charlie's boxing moves programed in via his shadow function.
And Show It to You: One of Zeus' victories looks like this with Zeus punching through the middle of the opponents chestplate and yanking out some wires.
Asian and Nerdy: Tak Moshido, Zeus' creator. Back Story on the film's website reveals that he was the original creator of Noisy Boy, Charlie's second robot, and was also one of the revolutionary inventors of robot boxing. Going even further, the film's Back Story is that robot boxing started as a hobby among robot enthusiasts in Japan, meaning that the entire sport was the result of this trope.
Bittersweet Ending: Charlie and Max have won the hearts of everyone in the world, earning them and Atom the title of the People's Champion, but Zeus retains his title as undefeated champion (which mirrors Rocky in that it was more about going the distance and making the invincible sweat... and leaving the way open for a sequel!)
Max is probably going to follow his adoptive parents rather than Charlie, but they did get their glorious WRB fight and Charlie's sister-in-law has clearly been won over by the sport, meaning that Max might not have to leave it behind in his new life.
Blood Sport: There are no more restrictions on where the fighters can hit, and fights in less legitimate venues are often to the "death". An early scene also has Charlie explaining that human boxing was slowly turning into this in its waning years, right around the time the WRB took over.
Boxing Lesson: Charlie gives these to Atom, who can then mimic his movements.
Bribing Your Way to Victory: The Xbox Arcade game seems good value at first, but the high-quality parts cost the equivalent of an Indie game - for each one. You can even buy complete and overpowered robots for the same amount of points you paid to buy the game in the first place. Also, you have to shell out even more to play 2-player, use Zeus or even decorate your robot.
A Boy and His X: Charlie initially has no interest in Atom; it is his son who does most of the initial work and fights all of the fights, until Charlie takes over for the WRB matches. Ironically, it reflects on his and Max's relationship.
Bratty Half-Pint: Charlie's first impression of Max. Given that Max just blackmailed him into giving a few dollars...
Break His Heart to Save Him: A variation: Charlie gives Max back to Debra and Marvin after Ricky beats both of them up, causing him to realize how unfit he is to be Max's father.
Break Out the Museum Piece: Atom is a 2nd generation fighting robot, meaning he's horribly obsolete and outclassed by modern robots. However, Charlie and Max are initially forced to use Atom since its the only robot available to them.
Calling Your Attacks: Voice-controlled robots necessitate this, though human operators are typically far enough apart that it doesn't matter.
Children Raise You: Charlie initially has no interest in Max other than using him to blackmail his sister-in-law's husband out of some quick(though badly-needed) cash. Over the course of the movie he discovers that he actually likes the kid. And when his own screwups come back to haunt both of them, he sends Max back to Debra and Marvin and rejects the second payment out of disgust at his own actions. But after some snuggle time with his girlfriend and a pep talk, he confesses everything to Max and asks him to stand with him in the bout with Zeus. In the end, spending just three months taking care of his son has improved every aspect of him, not only as a fighter but as a human being.
Combat Breakdown: In the final fight, All the fancy indierect commands for both Atom and Zeus are dropped through damage or desperation.
Covers Always Lie: The cover of the DVD release showcases Atom and Ambush as if Ambush is a significant character. Ambush is in the movie for all of five minutes and is completely trashed. Zeus would have been a better choice.
Cranial Processing Unit: Most of the robots seem to have these; justified as the robots are built to simulate human boxing.
Creator Cameo: Screenwriter John Gatins plays Kingpin, the mohawked promoter who heads "The Zoo".
Defeating the Undefeatable: Subverted. Atom does indeed knock Zeus down near the end of the fight, but Zeus is able to get back up. However, by this point in the fight Zeus is low on energy, and had he not been saved by the bell, Atom probably would have been able to knock him out.
Delinquent Hair: Midas' head is modeled after a Greco-Roman helmet, but it also makes him look like he has a mohawk. With the underground fighting setting and his violent fighting style, it employs this trope.
Zeus has pistons for fists, making him an example of this as well, though a fairly original one.
Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: In a variation, Ricky fails to understand that the only reason why Finn called him "partner" was because of his hat.
Evil Debt Collector: Charlie has a run-in with one, Ricky. He and his goons drive Charlie to the Despair Event Horizon, but during Atom's fight with Zeus, is hoist by his own petard by trying to renege on a deal with one of Charlie's old buddies.
Eyepatch of Power: Midas' handler. He's portrayed by the movie's stunt coordinator, and apparently the guy is missing an eye in real life.
Fanservice: The bikini girls at The Zoo, and the girl in the robot costume holding up the round cards during the league matches. Farra Lemkova has a kind of Sensual Slav/Kim Kardashian thing going on.
Fictional Sport: Robot boxing, obviously. It's stated that a perfect storm of boxing's decline (in part due to general uninterest and the various scares about boxers developing brain damage) and technological wizardry (and marketing) by Tak Moshido got people far more into robot boxing than real boxing itself.
Finishing Move: Deconstructed. With Midas on the ropes, Charlie has Noisy Boy wind up for the big one- giving his opponent enough time for a counter-punch to the gut, leading to Noisy Boy's destruction.
Fight Clubbing: When we see Charlie, his mech fights have been reduced to this - taking place at unofficial tournaments and outright underground fighting rings - and Atom's first real win takes place at an illegal ring in a former zoo.
Follow the Leader: The influences of Transformers and Rocky are clearly felt. Not quite enough to qualify for X Meets Y but enough to mention.
Funny Background Event: When Bailey sits down in the bar to watch Atom's fight with Twin Cities, the guy next to her clearly tries to get ready to hit on her, but cannot even get a word out before she turns her attention to the fight.
Foreshadowing: Bailey tells a story about Charlie's fight against a major championship contender and tells about how Charlie fought him relentlessly, pushed him to the limit, and tired him out — and ultimately lost in the final round.
Gonk: Metro, compared to the other 'bots. There's a reason why the filmmakers referred to him as "Frankenbot."
Good Old Robot: By necessity, at first, but Atom quickly proves his worth.
Gratuitous Japanese: Appears on Max's shirt at one point. Max also knows how to speak limited Japanese, as shown when he test controls Noisy Boy (at least enough to say 'left', 'right' and 'uppercut'). handwaved by the fact that Max plays Japanese bootlegs of video games.
Groin Attack: Midas does this to Noisy Boy in their fight. They might be robots, but it still made all the men in the room wince. And just like in real life fighting sports, it is heavily implied to be an illegal move.
Heroic BSOD: Charlie ends up keeping his promise and giving Max back to his legal parents when they returned out of guilt for having Max getting involved in being beat up with him by Ricky and his men.
Humans Are Special: Partly the reason why Atom has an advantage over other boxers: His Shadow Mode allows him to fight with the grace of a human boxer, as opposed to his opponents, who tend to be operated from outside the ring.
Hypocritical Humor: Right before the WRB debut, Charlie tries to reassure Max that they need to remain calm and have fun, while practically in the middle of a nervous breakdown about finally getting into the WRB.
I Know Mortal Kombat: Max learns the fight game quickly partially in thanks to his video game experience.
Jerk Ass: Ricky. He ignores Charlie's calls to quit the match when his robot is badly damaged, and then beats Charlie and his son up and steals their winnings.
Kick the Dog: Ricky and his men had already done quite a number on Charlie, but then when he learns from Max that he's beating on his father, he decides to belittle and beat him some even more, even though he had already taken all their money.
Licensed Game: Two, actually; one for Xbox Live / PlayStation Network, and one for Android / iOS. No motion or voice controls, sadly.
Lightning Bruiser: Atom. As shown many times in the film, the real reason the robot is so dangerous in the ring is because it was designed to react and move instantly while in shadow boxing mode, and is able to keep up with human movements, as well as being designed to take epic levels of punishment as a training robot. Adding in the arm components to throw punches, and given his size means he doesn't need weight behind his punches since he's almost always punching upwards, gives him the Bruiser side of the trope.
According to the DVD Commentary, Atom's fight with Metro was originally written to confirm that Atom was indeed sentient, with him fighting without Max operating him. The filmmakers eventually realized that it would be better if this trope was in effect, so the scene was scripted to its final form.
Atom's and Charlie's history. Charlie first came to prominence by being a no-name meat with no previous real experience in a warm-up match, giving a supposed world-class boxer quite a scare by being relentless and implacable. Atom is a sparring bot who came to prominence by winning an exhibition match against a supposed world-class boxing 'bot for exactly the same reasons.
At first, Charlie is the reckless one, and Max is the cautious methodical one. As the movie progresses, Max becomes more reckless and aggressive, and Charlie starts thinking things out more.
Meaningless Villain Victory: Zeus May have won the match, but the crowd most definitely doesn't care as they still cheer for Atom despite the loss. Tak, despite prevailing, was still humiliated that his masterpiece would have been beaten by an ancient scrapheap not even designed for actual fighting if the fight had continued, and the crowd booing his supposedly-perfect creation.
Morality Pet: Ricky's mistress. When debt collectors come looking for Ricky, he performs his first (and possibly last) selfless action by separating himself from his mistress before getting caught.
Motion Capture Mecha: Oddly enough, averted for the most part. Most modern (for the film) robots aren't motion-controlled, and Atom's unusual in that he's one of the surviving robots from that era. Atom's only designed to 'capture' movements and reuse them in fights as pre-programmed movements that are voice-activated (called the shadowcopy), and Max only thinks that real-time motion control is only useful for his and Atom's gimmick (dancing pre-fight). Charlie reactivates the shadowcopy to beat the stuffing out of Zeus in their fight.)
Mythology Gag: A few references are made to the original Matheson story:
The robots in the original story looked like regular human boxers. In the film, Charlie tells Max that the first fighting robots resembled humans more closely than the current fighters we see in the film. Atom, being a Generation Two fighter, is still somewhat human-looking, at least more than his opponents.
The original story has its main robot breakdown before its fight, leading to its handler to fight in its place. Naturally, this doesn't go very well. In the film, Atom's voice recognition is damaged in the middle of his fight with Zeus. Charlie then has to control Atom through his Shadow Mode, meaning that Charlie is technically the one fighting against Zeus.
The original story stated that human boxing was abolished because it was too violent. The film puts a different spin on this: human boxing did die out, but not because it was considered too violent, but because spectators didn't think it was violent enough.
The trailer has a scene where Lilly's character describes to Max how Charlie was a boxer, making it sound like a case of I Coulda Been a Contender. In the film itself, the description she uses is actually directed towards another boxer.
The trailers make it look like Charlie uses Atom's "shadow function" to control the robot for all of his fights. This is only used to "train" Atom, enabling the robot to execute Charlie's graceful boxing moves as opposed to purely mechanical attacks. Charlie only controls Atom by Kinect as a last resort in the final round of the fight against Zeus when Atom's other control functions are knocked offline, and is laughed at by the announcers as a desperation tactic.
Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: during their fight, one of Zeus' blows destroys Atom's vocal controls. Max decides to switch Atom to Shadow Mode, which, with Charlie's boxing skills, almost cost Zeus the win.
No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Atom got his ass kicked when he went up against Metro. The tides quickly turn to his favor in Round 2.
Midas takes Noisy Boy apart.
No New Fashions in the Future: Clothing styles still look the way they are in 2011. Granted, the film is only in 2020, but you'd expect some things to change.
No One Could Survive That: No robot has ever lasted more than a round with Zeus, most being torn to shreds by him and when Atom gets knocked down several times (once as soon as the fight starts) in the first round, the announcers commentary evokes the trope each and every time he gets up.
No Sell: Atom seems to shrug off most hits, which they credit to his purpose as a Sparring Robot.
Off with His Head!: Happens more than once, including one incident where the head flies straight up — reinforcing the connection to Rock'em Sock'em Robots.
Zeus executes a robot by squashing its head flat between his fists.
Older Than He Looks: Max. Charlie even asks him to clarify if he really is 11 years old. Might have to do with his intellect
One Hit Knockout: Atom falls instantly at the first punch Zeus throws at him. He gets up soon after.
Happens in the first fight against Metro. Atom only does one real offensive move the entire fight and it takes Metro down. Said move (known in some circles as Hanuman) has roots in Muay Thai, sacrificing any semblance of defense for pure offensive power.
Possession Implies Mastery: Averted. Charlie gets Noisy Boy, a former world champion robot controlled by voice recognition, but he never bothered to learn all the specific command sequences. In his first match, Noisy Boy is defeated because Charlie can not give him anything besides basic instructions, unhelpful combos, and the worst timing in the history of Earth.
Practical Effects: There were a large number of animatronic robots built for this film but the CGI is good enough that most viewers would need Word of God to tell the difference.
Product Placement: Sponsorships within the movie appear all over the equipment and arenas used by the WRB (considering that it's a professional sport, it would be kind of jarring if they weren't there), including Sprint, Bing, and the Xbox 720. Dr. Pepper appears as a standard product placement when Max drinks it throughout the movie. Royal Purple (synthetic oils and lubricants) appears on the control consoles of Team Twin Cities and Team Zeus. Hewlett-Packard's "HP" logo can clearly be seen through the back of Noisy Boy's control console and the round cards in Zeus' fight.
Technically averted with Dr. Pepper. Word of God admits that Dr. Pepper gave them permission to use their soda on-camera, but the film received no revenue from the appearance. They simply used Dr. Pepper because that was the soda they had on-hand, and needed something with caffeine content to justify Max's hyperactive-ness in one scene.
Promotion to Parent: Sure, Charlie is Max's biological parent, but he had never had any involvement in Max's life before the events of the movie, and the only reason he started to was because Max's aunt had a wealthy husband who paid him off to take Max for a few months. Over the course of the film, while he never tries to reclaim legal custody of Max, he does become much more of a father to him.
Charlie: "Oh, come on. Are you kidding me with those eyes?"
Pyrrhic Victory: Zeus wins the final fight, but just barely, and it's clear that Atom would've won by knockout had the fight gone on for even one more round. More importantly, Zeus loses credibility and the respect of the crowd, while Atom is crowned "The People's Champion."
Red Baron: Most of the robots. Twin Cities is "The Two-Headed Tyrant", Midas is "The Gold-Blooded Killer", Zeus is "The King of Kings" and Atom eventually becomes "The People's Champion". From the main robots, the only one who doesn't have one is Noisy Boy.
Repeat Cut: In the battle with Twin Cities, the final blow and fall is shown from three different angles. Two of them from behind each robot, then once looking straight down, complete with triumphant music swelling in the background.
Ridiculously Human Robots: Played with. The robots are mostly tools, and generally have no free will. Zeus is autonomous, but his programming seems only limited to fighting. There's also a brief scene of Metro looking confused when Atom dodges an attack. And of course, it's left to the viewer to decide whether or not Atom is sentient.
Rock Beats Laser: Atom is actually a sparring robot, meaning that he's designed to take lots of damage. This proves useful when his durability outlasts Zeus' energy.
Secret Art: Atom's Shadow Mode, which allows him to mimic a person's moves exactly. When said person happens to be a retired professional boxer who acts as his trainer, this is a serious advantage.
Serkis Folk: The robots. Max turns it into a gimmick by using Atom to dance pre-round.
Share the Male Pain: During the Midas fight, Midas punches Noisy Boy in "that spot". Being a robot, Noisy Boy doesn't feel anything, but despite that, the entire crowd flinches and reaches reflexively downward.
Shoo Out the Clowns: Atom and Max are shown to dance before every fight. They don't do this when Atom goes up against Zeus, likely to highlight the seriousness of the match.
Shout-Out: Atom's name is a twofer. It belongs to both the robot hero Astro Boy and the Golden Age hero The Atom, a diminutive scrapper who was taught to box, and proceeded to outfight thugs much bigger than him.
Charlie's first robot Ambush has some similarities to the blue robot in Rock'Em Sock'Em Robots.
The statue standing outside the WRB area closely resembles a Gundam.
Soft Glass: Tak Moshido, Zeus' creator, punches through one of the computer screens for Zeus' controls in frustration, with little damage done to his hand.
Stealth Pun: One of the underground robots Atom fights during his montage is a cowboy-themed boxer named Six Shooter. If one looks closely at Six Shooter's arms, one can see how his biceps are designed to resemble a pistol's revolver. As in his guns.
Not to mention the fact that he "fires" his arms, producing a gunshot sound effect. A similar gag is made for Black Top, whose punches make an engine revving sound effect.
The Stoic: Team Zeus, until they start freaking out when Atom puts up a good fight. Gets worse when Atom starts winning.
Stone Wall: Atom in his initial function as a sparring robot. He needed to survive even the champions' best hits (that are shown to be easily capable of shattering the parts of actual fighters) but he lacked offensive power, presumably to minimize the repairs needed by said champions after a session. Max's upgrades and Charlie's training turn him into a Lightning Bruiser.
Charlie loses not one, but two of his robots through his own hubris and errors. He loses his first robot, Ambush, when he actually turns his back to the arena during the fight in order to flirt with a woman, and he loses his second robot, Noisy Boy, when he puts him into a main event bout without even bothering to learn all of the commands first.
Zeus' owners were so confident that Atom would lose early in the match, perhaps in the first round, that they did not even bother to make sure Zeus had enough power to last the full five rounds. Towards the end of the match he actually begins to run out of power, allowing Atom to attack with near impunity. Though given he's never had to go further than one round, it's unlikely they ever bothered.
Charlie suckers them in using up all battery power. It is likely Zeus could have gone the distance defending. It is part of the rope-a-dope technique. Get a fighter that is way fitter to burn through his stamina.
Ricky is so confident that Atom won't last past round one vs Zeus that he tells Finn his exact seat in the stadium so that the can personally bring his money to him. This backfires horribly on him when Finn uses that information to track him when Atom manages to survive to round two.
Super Toughness: Atom's biggest advantage; as a sparring robot, he's designed tougher than even top-of-the-line combat models.
Taste the Rainbow: Each robot incorporates a different theme into its design. Noisy Boy, for example, takes influence from Samurai armor, while Midas has a fitting Greek armor motif to his design.
Technician Versus Performer: The key to Atom's success. Seemingly every other robot in the world is just a bipedal competitor in Robot Wars. Atom's shadow function enables ex-boxer Charlie to effectively "train" him to "perform" elegant punches, and utilize his years of experience to perceive telegraphed moves. And in the final fight, it enables Charlie to effectively fight Zeus himself - and beat him to a pulp like any pro boxer could any undisciplined juiced street fighter.
Technology Porn: The robots may be beat up or shiny ,but they're almost all beautiful in their own way.
Tempting Fate: "If you fall down here, you'll definitely—" Cue abrupt fall.
10-Minute Retirement: Tak went into retirement after Noisy Boy lost to the Lemkovas' first robot, Rubicon. Shortly after, he came out of retirement after striking a deal with them that culminated in Zeus' creation.
That Poor Car: Atom smashes one of his opponents into a car during the montage. Cue the car alarm.
Title Drop: Several times. For example, the eponymous "real steel" is the Real Steel boxing tournament.
Too Dumb to Live: Oh hey, I'm on a cliff? Yeah, I'm just going to stand here RIGHT ON THE VERY EDGE DURING THE RAIN and act coo-WHOOOOAAA!
Trailers Always Spoil: The first half of Noisy Boy vs. Midas was released without editing as one of the later trailers, including the Gold Blooded Killer's comeback.
They show Atom mirroring Charlie's moves during Zeus' fight so you knew that the mirror system would be used during the fight.
Twenty Minutes into the Future: Aside from the fact that robots have taken over boxing, everything looks pretty much like present day. The film is set in 2020.
Underdogs Never Lose: Averted. Zeus wins in points at the end of the fifth round, but the fact that Atom put up such a strong fight and probably would've won had the match had another round got him the support of the crowd. Atom is even dubbed "The People's Champion", no relation to that other one.
Unnecessary Roughness: Zeus didn't get penalized for throwing Atom across the ring. In a regular boxing match, he would have gotten a few points docked off.
Used Future: Invoked in some of the robots, who look like they've seen better days. Mostly applies to underground fighters; WRB League robots like Twin Cities and Zeus are well taken care of.
Villainous Breakdown: Not exactly a villain, but Tak loses it when he sees his precious robot taking a fierce beating from Atom.
The Watson: Max is this in his early scenes; it's to him that Charlie explains the history of the WRB, and Noisy Boy's voice control.
Weak, but Skilled: In every fight, Atom clearly is at a disadvantage in both size and weight. But when your fighting style is provided by a retired pro-boxer compared to the Unskilled, but Strong standard for most bots, you have a recipe for success.
What the Hell, Hero?: Max's reaction to finding out that he was "sold" to his aunt and her wealthy husband.
You Have No Chance to Survive: Most have this attitude towards Atom at first, to the point of betting large sums of money that he won't even survive the first round. They were proved wrong every time.
Zeerust: Though it hasn't exactly reached this yet, the film's very detailed timeline will most likely look rather silly as time goes on (for example, it states that robot boxing will become mainstream in 2014).