January 15, 2013

The Iron Giant (1999)

RARELY DOES A FILM COME ALONG like The Iron Giant that ignites a passion in people.

Part of that passion comes from the fact that it’s a terrific film on all levels – a fantastic story featuring rollicking action, touching relationships, and the last gasp of top-notch 2D animation (only the Iron Giant himself is computer-animated).

Another part of that passion is even more fascinating: Watch the reaction of someone who’s seen The Iron Giant when another person tells them, “I’ve never seen it.” The first person will start to stammer, eyes widened, falling over themselves to tell the other person how great it is, and that they must see it immediately. That reaction is justified by the person, and earned by the film.

Set in Maine at the height of paranoia surrounding the Cold War, The Iron Giant follows nine-year-old Hogarth Hughes (Eli Marienthal), an avid reader of comic books and watcher of the many B-movie sci-fi flicks of the era. When a giant metal alien (voiced by Vin Diesel) lands in Hogarth’s town, he hides him as best he can from prying eyes, primarily those of sneaky government agent Kent Mansley (Christopher McDonald). While it feels like a childhood dream come true for Hogarth (“My very own robot!”) and the two start forming a bond, he seeks help from a local beatnik (the perfectly cast Harry Connick, Jr.) whose scrapyard provides a safe haven from the paranoid townfolk and the US Army…but for how long?

Director Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) does a masterful job of developing the relationship of Hogarth and the Giant (via Tim McCanlies’ terrific script) as Hogarth explains the ways of Earth as he sees them – from the awesomeness of Superman, to the joys of doing a cannonball into a lake, to the violence and sadness of guns.

Cynics may dismiss The Iron Giant as nothing more than E.T. with a robot, but they’d be wrong on several levels, the biggest one being that the source material for The Iron Giant – the 1968 novel The Iron Man by Ted Hughes – predates E.T. by nearly 15 years. However, there is one similarity: If you cried at the ending of E.T., you’ll probably blink back tears during The Iron Giant’s finale.

Warner Brothers’ mishandling of The Iron Giant’s theatrical release in 1999 is one of the more colossal blunders in the history of the business. The studio barely promoted or advertised the film, so it vanished from theatres in weeks. Luckily, it found a second life through home video and word of mouth, and is now considered a classic.

The Iron Giant is a tremendous, powerful story featuring lessons on life, death, friendship, love, and sacrifice. Simply writing this review makes me want to watch it again. If that’s not a ringing endorsement, I don’t know what is.


What did FilmBoy think?
He and I share the rating. He couldn’t put his finger on any favorite part, but he thoroughly enjoyed The Iron Giant – laughing at several scenes of Hogarth and the Giant bonding and playing, and getting caught up in the finale when the Giant must evade and ultimately face off against the US Army, who are determined to destroy him.

Is it suitable for your kids?
The Iron Giant is rated PG for “fantasy action and mild language.”
Violence/Scariness: Hogarth gets a nosebleed after running into a tree branch; a deer is shot and killed (we hear the gunshot then see the lifeless body); Mansley knocks Hogarth unconscious with a chloroform rag; two boys are in peril of falling off the top of a building; the army shoots a mass amounts of weapons at the Giant, including guns, tanks, and missiles; the Giant responds with his own catalog of weapons that destroys several tanks and army trucks (no soldiers are killed). The finale, involving Hogarth’s town, the Giant, and a nuclear missile, may be emotionally intense for very young children.
Drugs/Alcohol/Tobacco: There are passing mentions of alcohol that will probably go over young kids’ heads. Mansley smokes a pipe on occasion. Hogarth gets comically wired after drinking an espresso.
Language: There are mild profanities: “hell” (2x), “damn it” (2x), and in the finale, Mansley declares, “Screw our country!”

Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
Yes. And if she’s not sure, make her. It’s a great film she shouldn’t miss.

That's either the Giant, or the squirrels are
throwing an all-nighter in their penthouse suite.

The Iron Giant
* Director: Brad Bird
* Screenwriter: Tim McCanlies
* Stars: Eli Marienthal, Vin Diesel, Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Aniston, Christopher McDonald, John Mahoney
* MPAA Rating: PG

Rent The Iron Giant from Netflix >>


Retro Hound said...

We like this one too. Pretty imaginative.

Kal said...

I would run errands with a mother friend of mine and her two kids and one afternoon we just went into the theatre knowing nothing about Iron Giant - the squeals of two 7 year old girls was worth it all. They never shut up about the film all weekend. One of the greats.

Gemma said...

Okay, okay, I'm convinced. We will watch it, I promise!

Reiska said...

" Okay, okay, I'm convinced. We will watch it, I promise! "

I bet the world you didn't regret that promise.

Sometimes it is stated as over-preachy with guns. I agree that guns don't kill but people do but this movie doesn't actually refer to guns as objects on this meaning. It refers guns as people and that is the entire essence of the giant. He is an allegory of us, of a human who can choose not to be a gun himself. Not to kill, even if commanded to do so or aggravated. Movie shows so vividly how hard this benevolent constraint is and what are the consequences of losing it.

You don't have to be a gun. YOU choose. Once again, truth comes from a mouth of a child. Utter brilliance in all it's simplicity and this simple choice is staring at the face of us all every singe day. Will you be a gun ? Don't be, you don't have to be. You choose.

This movie is top of the world-class with heart and soul the size of a universe. Masterpiece on every level.

Best cartoon in the world. Hopefully it will be surpassed but i seriously doubt it.


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