Earth, 1957. Somewhere off the coast of Maine, a fisherman caught in a storm sees an enormous metal being – an Iron Giant, if you will – with two great glowing eyes in the middle of the sea. Understandably, no-one believes him, until a small boy by the unfortunate name of Hogarth Hughes (Eli Marienthal) comes across said giant when it gets caught up in the electrical power plant. Naturally, being a young boy, Hogarth thinks the robot is awesome, and wants to do lots of cool things with it, but he isn’t the only party interested in the giant, and when the authorities hear about him they think it’s potentially a threat from Russia.
Of all the movies I’ve never seen before, the one that causes the biggest, most over exaggerated recoils of shock and disgust is The Iron Giant. I think this is probably due to my being a big fan of both animated movies and those aimed at children, plus I’m a ridiculous Pixar fanboy (you have no idea how annoyed I am that Inside Outisn’t released here in the UK until the end of July), and The Iron Giant was directed by Brad Bird, the man behind The Incredibles and Ratatouille (and the also-amazingMission: Impossible Ghost Protocol), so there’s literally no reason why I haven’t watched it before. Also, it stars a giant robot, and I love robots, because I’m a child. The only way you could make this movie appeal to me more is by calling it The Giant Iron Velociraptor Who Eats Cake And Plays With Lego. Regardless, I’ve now seen hit, so hurrah for everyone, especially me, because even with all that hype it’s still awesome.
Let’s kick things off with the giant. Infamously voiced by Vin Diesel, there’s clear parallels to Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Groot, with a limited vocabulary making use of Diesel’s gravel-in-a-cement-mixture rumblings. I loved the robot’s design, which is initially quite simple and blocky, but reveals itself to be more complicated as the plot requires later. At one point the giant becomes partially disassembled, at which point the various components roll and track their way back to the body via homing beacons and blue lights, which was unexpected and cool, and led to some hijinks with Hogarth fighting a giant walking metal hand. The animation of the giant is great too, particularly how agile it is on its joints, going from being fully vertical to crouched down in a split second, regardless of its mammoth height. Something so large is usually portrayed as being slow and lumbering, yet here the giant is nimble and lithe.
The rest of the cast are great too, particularly Jennifer Aniston as Hogarth’s mother, Harry Connick Jr. as a beatnik scrap metal artist and a personal favourite of mine, Christopher McDonald as Kent Mansley, the government agent on Hogarth’s tail. Kent is evidently the villain of this piece from the second you see him, with his elongated face, arrogant demeanour and the fact that he’s voiced by Christopher McDonald, who is always terrific at playing characters it’s very easy to despise, yet Mansley is also something of a buffoon and is regularly the butt of several jokes, meaning you don’t always boo and hiss when he’s on screen, it’s always fun.
The 1950s is the only time period this could have been set in. It’s the perfect culmination of black-and-white monster B-movies on TV, paranoia-inducing superhero comics, a nation terrified of a Communist attack and science fiction entering reality via the Space Race. The Iron Giant makes no attempts to hide the fact that this is a stereotypical 1950s American small town, with Hogarth’s mother of course working in a classic diner in a town where everyone seems to know everybody else. It’s basically Pleasantville, but with a giant robot thrown into it, and that sounds great to me.
The only fault I can really find is that I didn’t get emotionally attached. I’ve heard that various people cry at the ending to this, and it just didn’t work for me. This is more than likely due to me being dead inside than any fault on the film’s part, but it’s true nonetheless. Then again, I didn’t exactly need it to make my eyes well up to enjoy the outcome, and the ending works in spite of me being a heartless creation, presumably sent from space.
Choose Film 8/10