The forgotten Hugh Jackman movie storming the Netflix charts
(Credit: Netflix)

Films

The forgotten Hugh Jackman movie storming the Netflix charts

Streaming has a funny habit of dredging up forgotten films and blowing a brand new lease of life into their sails, with Hugh Jackman the latest to benefit from one of his more quietly unsung efforts rising to the upper reaches of Netflix’s charts once again.

The movie couldn’t exactly be called a flop when it came agonisingly close to the number any blockbuster should deem the bare minimum after netting $299million at the global box office back in 2011, but it would be almost another decade before Real Steel gained so much traction the industry was forced to sit up and take notice.

Following the narrative of the classic underdog sports story except with giant robots stepping in for pugilists, Jackman’s ex-boxer Charlie Kenton is such a terrible father that he basically agrees to sell his son to the parents of his recently deceased ex-girlfriend instead of having to take care of the boy himself. Naturally, the pair’s initial wariness of each other gradually thaws when they bond over robot boxing, leading to a redemptive father/son arc.

Most people forgot about Real Steel in the years that followed, until it suddenly exploded in popularity during the pandemic. Out of nowhere, it became one of the biggest movies on Netflix and stayed that way for weeks, with director Shawn Levy so taken aback that he decided to reach out to a pair of the biggest names in his contact list to let them know.

“It was strange and thrilling,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “I sent two texts. One was to Hugh, the other was to Spielberg, who was one of the producers of the movie. I’m like, ‘Somehow we are trending on Netflix’. I’ve made movies that made more money, but I don’t know that we’ve made a movie that garnered more long-standing, consistent love.”

As the internet tends to do, Real Steel‘s resurgence led to widespread calls for a sequel or continuation of some kind, which ended up bearing fruit when it was officially announced in January 2022 that a sequel series was in development for Disney+. A little cruel considering that it only happened because of Netflix, but at the end of the day the company isn’t the one that holds the rights to the property.

Is Real Steel a great movie? No, but neither is it an actively terrible one. It hits the beats everyone expects it to hit, lessons are learned along the way, and the outcome blatantly obvious from the opening scene unfolds exactly the way it does in a thousand similar films. That being said, it’s an easy and undemanding watch, and not many mediocre blockbusters have benefitted from streaming to quite the same extent.