The Iron Giant (1999)

The Iron Giant (1999)

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They didn't want to tell her that the spaghetti was overcooked.
They didn’t want to tell her that the spaghetti was overcooked.

Twitter Plot Summary: A lonely boy makes friends with an alien giant robot and must protect him from the government.

Genre: Animation/Action/Adventure/Comedy/Crime/Family/Sci-Fi

Director: Brad Bird

Key Cast: Eli Marienthal, Harry Connick Jr, Jennifer Aniston, Vin Diesel.

Five Point Summary:

1. “Hogarth! HOGARTH!”

2. Oh that Iron Giant! He’s so loveable!

3. Cannonball!

4. The government always fears what it doesn’t understand.

5. Mutually assured destruction. Kind of.

1957 is a great year in which to set a story. It’s an era of classic and sometimes terrible science fiction (as seen when Hogarth is watching a bad B-movie in the first five minutes) and of science fact as the space race and, by extension, the Cold War, starts to heat up. It’s also worth taking into consideration that the world was living in fear of nuclear armageddon. Into this volatile mix comes the Iron Giant, who’s a literal giant made of iron. It’s not just a clever name. Based on the Ted Hughes novel The Iron Man (no, not that one), the action is moved from the quaint English countryside to Maine, USA. Purists may balk at the transition, but it fits with the aforementioned science fiction/science fact crossover.

Hogarth is a classic child of the era. He’s mischievous but not to the point of inherently bad behaviour. He’s also terribly inquisitive, which true to form is what gets him into trouble in the first place. The giant crashes to Earth from space as we see the Sputnik satellite orbiting the planet. We then meet Hogarth, who wants a pet but isn’t allowed one because his mother thinks they create mess. He then encounters the Iron Giant and a modified “one man and his dog” type story is set in motion. The Iron Giant needs to be taught how things work on Earth, and thankfully Hogarth is the one to do this.

Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him well.
Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him well.

The animation is a delight, mixing traditional animation with computer generated characters. It’s clear that the Iron Giant is the CG creation, but it fits in rather nicely with the traditional stuff. More importantly, the Iron Giant is brimming with personality despite only having a limited vocabulary. The same can be said for the film as a whole, it’s charming and entertaining and doesn’t play like your average animated feature. The obvious budgetary issues aside, this could have easily been a live action feature, although much of the charm would likely be lost.

The moral of the story appears to be that violence is inherent in mankind, yet there is goodness in some of us, goodness which Hogarth tries to instil in Mr Iron Giant. Of course, once the government and the army gets involved – and their reaction is, of course, “KILL IT!” – it’s not such an easy choice. And that’s what it comes down to – choice. It’s in all of us to decide how we lead our lives, and the Iron Giant is a perfect allegory for this choice. The Iron Giant should rightfully be considered as evidence of what Western cinema is capable of, animated or otherwise, and should be placed alongside the best of Miyazaki’s work with Studio Ghibli. If you ever needed proof that animation could be considered on the same level as its live action counterparts, make sure you watch The Iron Giant – it’s not just for the kids you know.

Favourite scene: The Iron Giant jumping in the lake and displacing most of its contents.

Quote: “The biggest thing in this town is probably the homecoming queen.”

Silly Moment: Kent Mansley ordering the launch of a nuclear bomb, then suggesting they “Duck and Cover” when it hits. You moron.

Score: 4.5/5

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