Monday, November 5, 2012

The Iron Giant (1999) - Fine Animation, But Not as Kid-Friendly as Others

The Iron Giant: A Lonely Boy With Nothing to Do, Except Rule with his Warrior Robot

Film Poster The Iron Giant 1999
Brad Bird, now a top dog at Pixar (especially after both writing and directing "The Incredibles"), created this animated fable "The Iron Giant" (1999) about a boy and his robot from a book. You can pretty much date films by the primary relationship of the boy in them. In the 1800s, it would have been a boy and his slave ("Huckleberry Finn"). In the 1950s, it was a boy and his dog ("Lassie"). The 1980s invariably had a boy and his alien friend ("E.T.). Now, it is a boy and his robot. Funny how the stories always work out similarly in the end.
Hogarth and in The Iron Giant 1999
Hogarth and his mom
Nine-year-old Hogarth Hughes (Eli Marienthal) is being raised by his mom (naturally, the absence of a father is never really explained). He becomes friends with someone unique. The friend is an innocent alien giant robot (Vin Diesel) with a cool retro design that came from outer space, where he served as an interstellar weapon. He can fly and take on invading armies all by himself, but all he wants to do is learn a little about Superman.
The giant in The Iron Giant 1999
Just relaxing in a meadow
Naturally, there is more to the story than that. It turns out that a paranoid U.S. Government agent named Kent Mansley (Christopher McDonald) is determined to destroy the giant at all costs. He arrives in town and immediately starts snooping around. It wouldn't be a party without a heavy, right?
The robot resting The Iron Giant 1999
Robot at rest
Hogarth wants to protect his friend - who wouldn't? He keeps The Iron Giant at his friend Dean McCoppin's (Harry Connick, Jr.) in Dean's junkyard. Always handy for a kid to have a friend with a junkyard. In the end, it isn't Hogarth who protects his friend, but the other way around.
Hogarth and robot communicating The Iron Giant 1999
Talking to his new friend
Despite all the big names in the cast, such as Jennifer Aniston as the mother, this was not a major hit upon release. As Brad Bird became more famous/notorious, though, this film has resurfaced and done well on DVD.
Hogarth teaching the giant The Iron Giant 1999
Hogarth teaching the Iron Giant
This film is "critically acclaimed," and for good reason. The animation is top-notch, the voices are done to perfection, and the story isn't loaded with gimmicks like musical numbers and the like. There is a cozy 1950s ambience that gives the film a retro feel.
The giant holding  convertible The Iron Giant 1999
He doesn't know his own strength
Comparison to Steven Spielberg's "E.T." are inevitable.  "E.T." was a smash hit, and nobody went to see this film. Why?
Giant holding Hogarth The Iron Giant 1999
I would be nervous if I were Hogarth
Hard to say.  Poor marketing played a role, as did the fact that the central character, a giant robot, simply isn't that warm and cuddly.  Little kids are more apt to want to see kids about cute little smurfs, cute little turtles, cute little penguins, cute little talking cars or cute little toys.  No matter how hard they try, animators aren't going to make pictures of towering robot seem cute and little.  You always have the creeping suspicion that, like King Kong, this giant beast might turn on its human friend at any time as it literally holds the boy in the palm of its hand.  The Iron Giant also has a character-less face. You must rely on the boy character for all that, and smiling boys are a dime a dozen, and that can be done better in normal films than in animation anyway.  All this hurts, when compared to cute little smiling dinosaurs and cute little smiling smurfs and....
Evil-looking robots The Iron Giant 1999
This looks just like "War of the Worlds"
Still, it is a quality film. There are even some nice nods to classics such as "War of the Worlds." It just isn't as accessible for kids as, say, "Shrek" or "Toy Story" or "The Land Before Time."  But they might learn to like it, given the chance.

Below is the trailer, and below it a clip from the film.



Post a Comment

//PART 2