Hugh Jackman will find a new career as a trainer in the heavy-hitting sport of robot boxing in Real Steel, next year’s sci-fi drama from DreamWorks Studios.  You can get an early look at the flick by checking out the new production stills and detailed plot description below.

Real Steel will star Jackman, Evangeline Lilly (Lost), Kevin Durand (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker), Hope Davis, and child actor Dakota Goyo.  Shawn Levy (Date Night) is directing the film, which was inspired by the short story “Steel” from author Richard Matheson (I Am Legend).

Here is the official plot synopsis for the sci-fi feature:

A gritty, white-knuckle, action ride set in the near future [the year 2020], where the sport of boxing has gone hi-tech, “Real Steel” stars Hugh Jackman as Charlie Kenton, a washed-up fighter who lost his chance at a title when 2000-pound, 8-foot-tall steel robots took over the ring.  Now nothing but a small-time promoter, Charlie earns just enough money piecing together low-end bots from scrap metal to get from one underground boxing venue to the next.  When Charlie hits rock bottom, he reluctantly teams up with his estranged son Max (Goyo) to build and train a championship contender.  As the stakes in the brutal, no-holds-barred arena are raised, Charlie and Max, against all odds, get one last shot at a comeback.

If you find the mechanized warrior in the picture above (a.k.a. Atom) to be an impressive piece of work, there’s a good reason for that – it’s real.  While the dueling robot sequences utilize motion-capture animation based off actual human boxers (who themselves are getting help from the famous Sugar Ray Leonard), the Real Steel technical crew concocted nineteen life-sized animatronic metal bots for Jackman and his fellow performers to interact with.

The combination of actual props and digital effects was reportedly encouraged by executive producer Steven Spielberg and Levy wisely agreed with the notion. The mix of practical and CGI elements has worked best in the past (see Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films for the best example) and should lend Real Steel an air of authenticity and grittiness that it would otherwise lack, were all the effects to be done in post-production.

Take Levy’s comment to U.S. Today in consideration as well:

“There are some things only visual effects can pull off.  But when you give an actor a real thing, in this case a real 8-foot-tall machine, to interact with and do dialogue opposite, you get a more grounded reality to the performance.”

Shawn Levy and Hugh Jackman

What do you think?  Does Real Steel sound like a winner?  Sound off in the comments section below.

Real Steel arrives in theaters in the U.S. on November 18th, 2011.

Source: DreamWorks, U.S. Today