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The Iron Giant
1999 - PG - 86 Mins.
Director: Brad Bird
Producer: Allison Abate
Written By: Brad Bird, Ted Hughes
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Vin Diesel, Harry Connick Jr., Cloris Leachman, Eli Marienthal
Review by: Harrison Cheung
Official Site: www.warnervideo.com/irongiantdvd/
   

don't be scared! I'm just a giant weapon from outer space!
Before ‘The Incredibles,’ writer/director Brad Bird helmed a huge flop in 1999 for Warner Bros. ‘The Iron Giant’ was an expensive full-length animated feature based on a short story by Ted Hughes. It also had expensive voice talent, including: Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr., Vin Diesel, Cloris Leachman and John Mahoney. Set in 1958 in a small town in Maine, a giant robot falls from the sky and befriends a boy named Hogarth. Though Hogarth thinks he’s found a giant new pet, little does he realize that the robot is actually a powerful alien defense weapon designed to fend off attacks. Luckily, the robot, suffering from a big dent on his noggin, doesn’t remember what he was originally created for.

Why did ‘The Iron Giant’ flop? For a children’s animated film, it’s pretty dark with a reoccurring exploration about life and death and one’s purpose in life. The Iron Giant (Diesel) learns about death when he sees hunters shoot a deer. He watches as the army and other unnamed government forces threaten his little friend and his mother. The bad guys in this movie have no qualms about intimidating Hogarth.

As an educational tool, ‘The Iron Giant’ has a lot going for it. There are lessons here about morality, mortality and a none-too-subtle anti-war message. The film opens with Sputnik making history as the first man-made satellite (in a scene very similar to the opening of ‘October Sky’) and firmly sets up the time period’s anti-Communist paranoia. The style of the animation is retro – think of the recent animated TV series of Batman – which suits the time frame and the awshucks 1950s innocence of the local townsfolk. In Hogarth’s school, they’re teaching the “duck and cover” method of surviving an atom bomb.

Central to ‘The Iron Giant’ is the bond of friendship between boy and machine. At first, the boy teaches the Giant how to speak English. Then, he tries to hide the 100’ robot from the other townsfolk – especially his fretful, overworked mother (Aniston) and from the snoopy government agent sent to investigate reports of a giant metal-eating monster. There’s a wonderfully touching exchange when the boy explains to the Giant what a soul is, and what is good and evil. The Giant makes up his mind that he wants to be good, like Superman, and he puts a big ‘S’ on his chest.

Clearly, before Bird found the winning mix of message and entertainment in ‘The Incredibles,’ he was stumbling with a well-intentioned and beautifully executed film like ‘The Iron Giant.’ As kids’ entertainment, this movie crawls, more drama than action. The Giant was simply made for the wrong audience at the wrong time. At one point, when all of the Giant’s weaponry is activated, it’s a terrifying, nightmare-guaranteeing moment. Still, this is a film that a family can watch together – but heed the rating, parental guidance!
 
Movie Guru Rating
Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental.
  3.5 out of 5 stars

 
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