The Iron Giant

Retro Review: The Iron Giant (1999)

The text below the break is part of a review originally written on August 8th, 1999.

Here are some updated thoughts:  Brad Bird was a virtual Hollywood nobody before, and even sometime after, The Iron Giant.  But when I first saw the movie I knew the person driving it had a talent for telling stories.  Brad has since gone on to make The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and the upcoming Tomorrowland.  As well as being a creative contributor to Up, Toy Story 3, and Monsters University.  He’s won 2 Oscars along the way.

At the time I wrote this original review, The Iron Giant was a massive flop at the box office . . . while, paradoxically, being a massive critical success (97% fresh).  And I allude as much at the time I wrote the review.  I made every attempt to promote this movie, but the standard response was “Ahhh, that’s kid’s stuff!”  Prior to 1999 popular animated movies were full of dancing, singing, and cute/cuddly sidekicks.  You know, kid’s stuff.  This has none of those.  What it does have is a heartwarming story about misguided fear caused by being different, and the friendships that can be created as a result.[divider style=”dashed” top=”20″ bottom=”20″]

As I said in my pre-posting of this review on the main page, I’m a sucker for animated films . . . whether they’re for kids or grownups.  This doesn’t mean I like all animated movies.  In fact, with the exception of a few, I have grown quite jaded with Disney’s song and dance fests they’ve been cranking out lately.  Tarzan was a recent exception.  I want a break from all this goofy prancing and gaiety that’s marketed to children.  Well, Brad Bird and the boys at Warner have delivered the goods while still making a film that is enjoyable for everyone!

Without giving too much away, the premise of The Iron Giant is pretty straight forward.  Strange mechanical robot plummets to Earth. Robot is damaged and doesn’t know who he is or where he is.  Robot befriends boy after boy saves its life.  Pretty simple stuff here, but it all works to perfection.  Throw in a concerned mother, a beatnik grownup, a conniving government official, a dash of cold war paranoia, and the military . . . shake well, serve.

The friendship that develops between the robot and the boy is genuine and heartfelt.  As Hogarth (the boy) says: ” . . . it’s the greatest thing since, well, television or something!”  Their friendship is never corny or over the top either; but natural, and quite funny in most cases.  The message the movie delivers is especially important for children to pick up.  Basically you have the power to choose who you are or who you become.  You have the power to choose who you allow into your life, despite their differences.  And in the end these become very important choices indeed.

[box type=”error” align=”” class=”” width=””]The Iron Giant PosterA 50-foot, metal-eating robot with a pleasant, inquisitive demeanor enters Hogarth’s life and changes everything.  With eyes that change color according to his mood, parts that transform and reassemble, and an innocent heart, he becomes best friend, coolest toy and immortal hero to Hogarth.  He learns that you are who you choose to be and uses his strength for good rather that destruction, proving to the world that he recognizes the value of human life.

The Iron Giant (1999)
Director:  Brad Bird
Starring:  Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick, Jr., Vin Diesel
Genre:  Science Fiction, animated
Media:  Film, 87 minutes
Rating: PG
Year: 1999
4.5 out of 5 stars

The animation style is perfect for this movie.  The animation of the film as a whole is gorgeous, and the colors are full and bright.  The voice acting was also top notch.  Going in I knew who the actors were portraying the characters, but to be honest I totally forgot once the movie started rolling.

From the looks of it Brad Bird was trying to capture elements from the classic days of 1950s scifi cinema.  For those uninitiated, these classic elements are:  the crisp army general hellbent on protecting the freedom of America (salute!), paranoia fueled by ignorance, the beatnik, streets filled with tanks, a quizzical child, and of course some sort of creature or event . . . in this case a giant robot.  But our giant friend from outer space isn’t completely innocent.  Towards the end when he starts to figure out who/what he is . . . well, that’s when things really start rockin’!

I congratulate Brad Bird and his team of animators.  They’ve managed to one-up Disney at their own game.  But alas, although this movie will be heavily lauded by the press, I fear it will be somewhat overlooked by the public because it is NOT a Disney product.  Shame on you if you are one of these people!  Go see this movie.  I promise you’ll like it . . . if not love it.

I can’t really think of anything negative to say about this great movie.  If you don’t frequent animated movies, then it’s time to turn over a new leaf with The Iron Giant.  It’s an animated classic (currently ranked at #75 all time at IMDb) that manages without all the boring singing and dancing that we’ve become familiar with from this genre.

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Note:   I’m revisiting and re-posting many older articles (almost 200) I’ve written (or contributed to) over the years, either for my own purposes or as contributions to other sites now long digitally decayed and dormant.  These reviews/articles will appear in their nearly raw, unaltered form, with a few updated thoughts at the beginning of each.

Words © 2015-2021, Neal Ulen. All rights reserved.
Images/videos cited © to their respective owner(s).

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