Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Review: "The Iron Giant" is Still a Giant (Happy B'day, Jennifer Aniston)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 223 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Iron Giant (1999) – animated
Running time:  86 minutes (1 hour, 26 minutes)
MPAA – PG for fantasy action and mild language
DIRECTOR:  Brad Bird
WRITERS:  Tim McCanlies; from a screen story by Brad Bird; (based upon the book The Iron Man by Ted Hughes)
PRODUCERS:  Allison Abbate and Des McAnuff
EDITOR:  Darren T. Holmes
COMPOSER:  Michael Kamen
BAFTA Award winner


Starring:  (voices) Eli Marienthal, Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick, Jr., Vin Diesel, Christopher MacDonald, and John Mahoney with Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston

The subject of this movie review is The Iron Giant, a 1999 animated science fiction film from director Brad Bird.  The film is based on the 1968 novel, The Iron Man, by author Ted Hughes.  The Iron Giant focuses on a boy who befriends a giant alien robot and then fights to protect that robot from the paranoid government agent who wants to destroy it.

Among the many popular animated films of 1999 (which included Disney’s Tarzan and the “South Park” feature film), one got lost in the crowd, a great family film with a message and heart.  It was The Iron Giant, a Cold War fable with a timeless message and was directed by Brad Bird, who at the time was known for his work on “The Simpsons” and is currently getting attention for directing Disney/Pixar’s The Incredibles.

Based upon a book by Ted Hughes, the film was the story of Hogarth Hughes (Eli Marienthal), a boy with a love for comics and sci-fi monster movies and who has an active imagination, and an innocent giant alien robot (Vin Diesel) the boy befriends.  Now, the robot is difficult to hide and eventually his presence earns the attention of Kent Mansley (Christopher MacDonald), a government agent who wants to destroy the robot.  Hogarth is afraid to tell his mother, Annie Hughes (Jennifer Aniston), a single parent, about his giant robot friend, but he luckily befriends an easy going beatnik artist named Dean McCoppin (Harry Connick, Jr.).  Dean runs a scrap yard, which proves to be a good source of food for the metal-eating giant, but how long can Hogarth and Dean hide the giant robot from the men who want to destroy him?

The Iron Giant’s story is very similar to that of E.T.: The Extraterrestrial, another story about a boy who befriends an innocent alien hounded by military types that want to hurt him.  The moral or message of The Iron Giant is not necessarily entirely about peace, but is more about choosing peace and defending oneself only when one is sure of his enemy instead of attacking the unknown because of paranoia, ignorance, and fear.  The film is also a heartfelt drama with many comic moments and lots of action and adventure aimed at the young-at-heart and those who still can recall child-like wonder.  The script lightly draws the characters, but gives enough of them to make the premise work.

The quality of the animation (2-D or traditional hand drawn with some CGI) is very high quality; in fact, it’s hard to tell that the “Iron Giant” is completely computer animated because the character fits in so well with the hand drawn figures.  The animation is not as fluid as the best of Disney, but this film looks as if it could have come out of the Disney animation studios that produced 101 Dalmatians or The Jungle Book.  I heartily recommend this film to animation and sci-fi fans, and I especially recommend it for family viewing.

8 of 10

2000 BAFTA Awards:  1 win: BAFTA Children's Award for “Best Feature Film” (Allison Abbate, Des McAnuff, Brad Bird, and Tim McCanlies)

Updated:  Tuesday, February 11, 2014

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