Blah blah blah, I love Rod Serling’s masterful The Twilight Zone and own every episode on DVD and it’s the most inspirational and influential things for my all-too-slowly fiction-writing side, blah blah. I’ve said all that many times before, so fudge it. No need to regurgitate. It’s common knowledge for anyone who knows me even the least bit. Or damn well should be, if not.
Not as loudly shouted but still not unknown is my particular fondness for writer extraordinaire Richard Matheson, the superior horror-fantasy novelist who also scribed a majority’s stack of Twilight Zone episodes. In my bedroom’s library rests two paperback compilations of his best T-Zone scripts, which I read frequently. One of the scripts included in those books is “Steel,” the great Zone episode about the washed-up boxer turned washed-up manager who’s hoping to land one final star-scrapper in a futuristic world where flesh-covered robots are the only ones allowed to be in-ring pugilists. It’s more of a character drama than anything supernatural or morbid, but it does end with a somber send-off that’s pure Matheson, meaning not a stand-up-and-cheer closer. Works perfectly as a 20-some-odd minute television work; swiftly molds the characters, churns some tense fight scenes and doesn’t wear out its welcome.
So, why the hell wouldn’t Hollywood try to stretch it out into a feature-length film? By the sound of the synopsis for Real Steel, the just-announced adaptation of Matheson’s “Steel,” those who share my love for the original will surely cringe and wish to fart in the producers’ general direction (Monty Python those bastards). “2,000 pound human-like robots” better not mean they’ll be Transformers-sized. Kill yourselves, if so. Unsurprisingly, the older grizzled manager has been prettied up and given to Hugh Jackman, and they’ve added a little kid into the mix, replacing the loyal middle-aged partner. The final nail in the casket? The director assigned is Shawn Levy, the guy behind the Night of the Museum movies, Just Married, and The Pink Panther. Nowhere near a hack, but still his presence is a bad sign because it signifies that Real Steel stands no chance of retaining any of that old Twilight Zone veneer. Makes sense, if they’re trying to turn this into a hit vehicle for Jackman to show he’s more than your dude Wolverine; doesn’t make this news any less angering, though.
At least Richard Matheson will cash some nice royalty checks off of this. In that case, I hope it’s a smash. Doesn’t mean I’ll be opening my wallet… Unless the project’s trajectory takes a drastic turn back to its source.