For this month’s next review for Genre Grandeur – Animated Sci-Fi/Fantasy (Non-Disney/PIXAR) Movies, here’s a review of The Iron Giant (1998) by Tom of Digital Shortbread
Thanks again to S.G. Liput of Rhyme and Reason for choosing this month’s genre.
Next month’s Genre has been chosen by Kim of Tranquil Dreams. We will be reviewing our favorite teenage/high school romance movies. Please get me your submissions by 25th June by sending them to email@example.com Try to think out of the box! Great choice Kim!
Let’s see what Tom thought of this movie:
Number of times seen: at least a dozen
Brief Synopsis: A boy makes friends with an innocent alien giant robot that a paranoid government agent wants to destroy. (IMDb)
My take on it: Hogarth Hughes (voice of Eli Marienthal) is a typical kid growing up in an era where paranoia has been running rampant across the globe. His upbringing under the roof of his single mother Annie (voice of Jennifer Aniston) is surprisingly free from the strictures of living during the Red Scare. A curious sort, Hogarth’s world changes irrevocably when he stumbles upon a gigantic robot at a power plant close to his house.
Despite its enormity, Hogarth quickly becomes friendly with the big metal guy, teaching him basic things like what typical Earth objects are, what human behaviors are, and even more profound concepts such as the inevitability of life and death. Vin Diesel’s voice, chewing over words like ‘rock,’ instantly gives the Iron Giant a personality that’s incredibly disarming. Marienthal is equally empathetic, giving us a kid whose fearlessness of the world around him (perhaps a fair amount of ignorance at his age helps) makes him an easy character to root for.
As much as a robot enjoys an education, a robot’s still gotta eat. It’s a pretty tall order picking out a ‘best scene’ from Brad Bird’s magnificently realized animation, but among the most memorable is the moment where the pair discover a junkyard filled with what appear to be scraps of . . . um, edibles. Joy gives way to panic when Hogarth realizes the metal is actually being gathered for art projects by the lonely Dean McCoppin (Harry Connick Jr).
Dean’s hardly a threat though. In fact the trio eventually become a tight-knit unit. He’s not anything like The Iron Giant’s slimy government agent Kent Mansley (voice of Christopher McDonald), who represents the United States’ mounting fear of nuclear war. He’ll stop at nothing in his pursuit of Hogarth and the giant robot — a tactic that eventually culminates in him prematurely firing a nuclear missile into the atmosphere in a last-ditch effort to eliminate what he presumes to be the Communists’ ultimate war machine.
The Iron Giant is a beautifully animated film rendering an age filled with fear and uncertainty. Not that either of those factors have really disappeared in our modern, post-9/11 lives. In that sense, this movie speaks to generations beyond that of the baby boomers. It’s of course a film also not entirely without its stereotypes and cliches — government is bad, single mom/kid are the good guys. But in this package it really works.
‘You stay, I go.’
I can think of very few lines that linger in my mind as much as this one does. Four words encapsulating a wondrous and colorful adventure offering up heartbreak and inspiration in equal measure; four words deftly summing up a learning experience firmly rooted in nostalgia over simpler times.
Bottom Line: Though characters are painted in broad strokes, that doesn’t stop the experience from being one of my all-time favorite movies from my earlier movie watching days. It is quite possibly my favorite animated movie — between the voice talent, the giant itself and the beauty of the picture as a whole, this one is a winner.
Rating: Oscar Worthy