Earlier this week, we talked about director Peter Berg's upcoming movie plate being fuller than a Biggest Loser contestant standing in a buffet line before going on the show. With his involvement on Battleship, Hancock 2 and now Dune, Berg will be busy for the better part of the next 6 years - so it's no wonder that DreamWorks recently announced Berg stepping aside on the robot boxing movie Real Steel.
Who do you think they choose to replace him? None other than the Mr. Cotton Candy himself, Shawn Levy. You may remember Levy from such cinema greats as The Pink Panther, Just Married, Big Fat Liar, and Cheaper by the Dozen. He also directed both Night at the Museum films, the first being great; the second was fun but didn't live up to the first. Now, before you say I'm not giving the guy a chance, read the synopsis for Real Steel and then you tell me if Levy's previous work gives you pause for concern.
Real Steel is set in the future where human boxing has become illegal and the fighters have been replaced by robots. The story follows a father and his estranged son who compete in the "Rock 'em, Sock 'em" robot world. That's pretty much all screenwriter John Gatins (Hard Ball, Dreamer) came up with. Peter Sciretta at /Film said this about the premises, "The concept is something we've never seen before, and in the right hands, could be a good Summer tentpole film." I agree with Peter that if done properly Real Steel would make a great summer tentpole; however, I have to take issue with the "never seen it before" angle.
A father and son getting back together after years of separation has been told more than once: Lucky You is the most recent example I can think of, and I think Pete is forgetting the best fighting robot movie of all time - Robot Jox! I know you were thinking Transformers 2 but you were dead wrong. If you haven't had a chance to have your eyeballs seared by Gary Graham and his majestic fighting robot, then by all means add that baby to your NetFlix cue.
OK, so now that you've heard the concept behind the film - fighting robots - does Levy still sound like the right choice to helm such an endeavor? If you are still on the fence then maybe this quote from Levy to Heat Vision will push you one way or the other:
"Steven's passion for this project was absolutely infectious and I'm so excited to bring this story to life. In a movie filled with these mechanical warriors, at its core 'Real Steel' is an incredibly human story."
And welcome to my side of the fence! Could there have been a more PR friendly, generic statement made about a movie? I can almost hear Don LaFontaine, the famous voice-over trailer guy, reading that last part to a John Williams score: "In a blah filled with blah,..."
But wait, what "Steven" is Levy referring to? It's none other than ol' gray beard himself, Steven Spielberg. So maybe Real Steel DOES have a chance of being good. Just about any project Spielberg gets involved with benefits from his input, so he may be just what the doctor ordered to keep this film on track.
I know I'm coming across harsh but I think Shawn Levy is seriously out of place by directing a film of this type. His genre is family oriented comedy and he's pretty good at that; not since Tim Story was tapped to direct Fantastic Four, has a director been so out of his element (except maybe Ang Lee on Hulk). Time will tell if I'm wrong and Levy is actually an action director at heart, ready to properly assume the helm of Real Steel. Robert Rodriguez managed to pull it off, so why not Shawn Levy?
What do you think of Shaw Levy being picked to direct Real Steel and what do you think of the movie as a whole?
Real Steel is slated or a 2011 release.