We really liked Real Steel — it wasn't a deep character study, or a brilliant epic, but it was a fun movie about robots beating the crap out of each other. And it had a boy befriending a huge robot, which he then upgraded. It was a robot movie which managed to avoid getting hung up on the question of whether the robots were sentient. And we really wanted to see Atom kick Zeus' ass.
And apparently, audiences generally agree with us — Real Steel won its second weekend in a row, taking in $16.3 million in the U.S. for a respectable 40 percent second-weekend drop. The movie's worldwide box office already pretty much equals its budget, meaning it'll probably end up being profitable. More importantly, Real Steel narrowly beat the Footloose remake, and shattered the Thing prequel.
Those of us who sometimes feel like Hollywood puts too much energy into endless remakes (and reboots and prequels) should feel happy about this result. Sure, Real Steel stuck pretty closely to a lot of sports-movie cliches, and it was technically a "remake" of a Twilight Zone episode, which in turn was based on a Richard Matheson story. But still, Real Steel came out with zero name recognition, and wasn't making a play for any existing fanbase other than science fiction/sports fans.
Meanwhile, Footloose was a pretty faithful remake of a cult movie that probably doesn't have a lot of name recognition among younger people — so a remake was always a dicey proposition. (Plus, dance movies never do that great, and the movie's "lighten up, Christian fundamentalists" theme is probably a harder sell now than in the 1980s.) And The Thing is just as much of a cult movie, with a hardcore but not huge following. And it seemed like everything we heard about the Thing prequel was that it went out of its way to connect the dots with the John Carpenter version — making it sound as though you had to have seen Carpenter's movie to get anything out of this.
October is a tough time for movies anyway — I'd forgotten the awful fact that last year's big October hit was Jackass 3-D — but at least Real Steel's modest success shows that you can get people out of their homes with a non-franchise picture, if it's got a clear enough concept and a healthy dose of fun. And that's a great message for movie-goers to be sending.