Real Steel is a 2011 American science fiction action film starring Hugh Jackman and directed by Shawn Levy. The film is based on the 1956 short story "Steel" by Richard Matheson, though Levy placed the film in U.S. state fairs and other "old-fashioned" Americana settings. Real Steel was in development for several years before production began in June 11th of 2010. Filming took place primarily in the U.S. state of Michigan. Animatronic robots were built for the film, and motion capture technology was used to depict the brawling of computer-generated robots and animatronics. Real Steel was publicly released in Australia on October 6, 2011 and in the United States and Canada on October 7, 2011. It will be in both conventional and IMAX theaters.
In 2020, humans have been replaced by robots in boxing. Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) is a former boxer who attempts to get money in illegal boxing matches between robots to pay his debts to loan sharks. During a fight, Charlie's robot, Ambush, is destroyed by Black Thunder, a bull belonging to Ricky (Kevin Durand). Having made a bet that Ambush would win, Charlie now owes Ricky $$20,000, which he doesn't pay before leaving.
While leaving, Charlie is informed that his ex-girlfriend has died, and he has to attend a meeting to decide the fate of his preteen son Max (Dakota Goyo). Max's aunt Debra (Hope Davis) and uncle Marvin (James Rebhorn) want full custody, and Charlie gives it to them in exchange for $$100,000 from Marvin, $$50,000 of in advance, on the condition that Charlie takes care of Max for three months, while Marvin and Debra are away on a second honeymoon.
Charlie and Max meet with Charlie's friend Bailey Tallet (Evangeline Lilly), who runs the boxing gym of her deceased father, Charlie's old coach. There, Charlie buys a secondhand WRB league robot which competed all over the world, Noisy Boy, and arranges for it to fight the illegal circuit's champion, Midas, despite the discontent of Max, at a venue belonging to his friend Finn (Anthony Mackie). Partly due to his inexperience with Noisy Boy's combinations, Charlie ends up losing control of Noisy Boy and Midas destroys it.
Charlie breaks into a junkyard with Max to steal scraps that he can use to put a new robot together. There, Max falls over a ledge, where he is saved from doom after being snagged by a lodged and buried robot arm. After Charlie pulls him back up, Max uncovers the entire robot, called Atom. On Max's insistence, Charlie takes it back to Bailey's gym, where they discover Atom is a sparring bot that can sustain massive damage, but isn't able to deal out much damage. Max convinces Charlie to get Atom a fight, and upgrades him to take vocal commands using spare parts from Noisy Boy and Ambush.
Charlie and Max take Atom to fight an unsanctioned outdoor match against a robot called Metro, and Atom wins, earning back some of Charlie's money. Atom's string of subsequent wins attracts the attention of a promoter from the World Robot Boxing league (WRB), who offers Atom a professional fight against a robot called Twin Cities. Charlie accepts, and Atom wins again, thanks to Charlie's knowledge of boxing, which allows him to locate a design flaw in Twin Cities. Taking advantage of Atom's subsequent novelty attention, Max challenges WRB champion Zeus, designed by arrogant genius Tak Mashido (Karl Yune) and sponsored by rich Russian Farra Lemcova (Olga Fonda), who accepts, but first tries to buy the upstart Atom.
As they leave the Twin Cities fight, Charlie is attacked by Ricky and his men, who beat him severely, assault Max and steal their money. Feeling guilty, Charlie returns Max to his aunt and uncle so they can protect him, but Bailey (after sharing a kiss with Charlie) convinces him he can be a better father to Max. Convincing Aunt Debra for one more chance, Charlie takes Max to the Zeus-Atom match, Zeus severely damages Atom — while also getting injured, a first for Zeus. In the last round of the five-round match, Atom's vocal receptors are damaged, and he has to fight in shadow boxing mode, copying Charlie's moves from the aisle. After Zeus runs very low on power, Atom begins to heavily damage Zeus, but doesn't win before the round ends, forcing the judges to declare a winner on points. They favor Zeus, but his reputation is tarnished, and Atom has become famous as "The People's Champion".