Real Steel, which opens this Friday, is based on a Twilight Zone episode called “Steel” (which in turn was based on a Richard Matheson short story). The TV episode and the Hugh Jackman movie are both set in a future when boxing is a sport for robots; both also center around a down-on-his-luck fighter turned robo trainer. But the similarities end there: The 1963 episode had the struggling Steel Kelly (Lee Marvin) donning a robot costume and getting in the ring after his old, obsolete ‘bot breaks down before a fight. He is pummeled mercilessly and only gets half the payday, leaving the viewer with the pessimistic feeling that indefatigability be damned, humans will never defeat machines. The new film will not brook such pessimism: In Real Steel, Jackman’s deadbeat dad trains a broken-down robot to be a champion in order to impress his young son. Let’s see a machine do that! Yay, humans; boo, cynicism! With the recent news that Warner Bros. is looking at big-name directors to do a Twilight Zone movie based on one story (as opposed to the 1983 anthology version), we wonder if they’ll be taking a Real Steel approach to the classic series, wringing out all the pesky irony from the series in order to come up with a feel-good four-quadrant hit. Sorry, Rod Serling, your downer twists have no place in today’s multiplexes! As a service to the studios, here are pitches for five classic Twilight Zone episodes that can be updated the Jackman way.
Photo: CBS Productions