When I was out of my toy collecting phase or as I like to call it “the sad time”, my niece was about four or five. This is important to this review, because somewhere along the way she got into the Iron Giant. The WB movie of the same name, produced a ton of toys by Trendmasters (the now defunct toy company) and although I didn’t collect toys I recognized how awesome her Iron Giant toys were. Fast forward to today and it pains me to see that Iron Giant toys on Ebay are regularly priced between $99-$500!

This means two things, one, I’ll never likely own them and two, it’s a shame she destroyed all of them. She had darn near every one at some point as she really loved Iron Giant. Ironically even though she pretty much watched Iron Giant on a non-stop loop (you know how kids do at like age 5) I never saw the film. In fact I’d only ever seen about maybe ten minutes of the motion picture.

Bored and angry that Netflix refuses to send me my Tetsujin DVDs, I decided to pop it on the instant Netflix and finally give it a watch. Surprisingly Iron Giant is a really well rounded animated film that has all the focus and charm of some of Disney’s best efforts, with a sensible and sometimes horrific story that’s reminiscent of ET. Certainly this shouldn’t be brushed aside because it’s an animated film (Not by Disney) or because it’s a supposed “kids” movie.

Iron Giant tells the story of Hogarth Hughes, a young kid with too much energy and not enough friends. It’s the same story you’ve heard before, single Mom who works late raising her kid who can’t quite fit in. Iron Giant doesn’t reinvent anything in the genre here, but it follows the formula to perfection. At the same time Hogarth is struggling with finding his place in the world, a robot from outer space crash lands nearby.

Did I mention that this is smack dab in the middle of the atomic age, the red scare is in full effect and the Russian’s just launched Sputnik? Fear and paranoia and some genuine dread are sprinkled throughout the background, as well as a social commentary that can only truly be stated from the future is at work. Historians will likely look back at some of our more recent history and see some of the same parallels.

Eventually Hogarth and the Iron Giant (never really called that) meet up and become unlikely friends. Hogarth teaches the Giant how to speak (voice by Vin Diesel, but don’t hold that against it) and the Giant seems to give Hogarth some confidence and perhaps the friend and father he really needs. Unfortunately the Iron Giant has an insatiable need to eat metal and we see flashes that perhaps the Iron Giant is as friendly as he seems, but thanks to a bump on his head he appears to be not doing his original programming.

We see that Hogarth teaches the Iron Giant all the basics that a ten year old boy might know. Superman is who you should strive to be, he never does wrong and he helps people. That sticks in the Giant’s robotic mind, since hey, Superman was a alien orphan from outer space too and the humans love him. There’s also a dramatic scene where Hogarth and the Giant find a deer grazing in the meadow and they actually manage to get right up on it, before it’s brutally gunned down by some hunters. This greatly affects the Giant and we find the movie’s true theme, Hogarth tells the Giant “Guns kill.” and “You’re not a gun.”

As with all good things, it must come to an end and when G-Man Kent Mansley shows up to town it’s only a matter of time before he tracks down that Hogarth is hiding the giant. Unlike ET, the Iron Giant is huge and soon the army have rode into town to destroy him. Hogarth, with some help from his new found human friend Dean whom he met thanks to their mutual interest in the Iron Giant try to save the Iron Giant. There’s some interesting stuff here, especially with Kent, who is certainly done in an over the top fashion to be a villain but his goals are somewhat admirable, at least in his mind, he’s a patriot.

As the US army attacks we find out that the Iron Giant may have very well been sent here to destroy us all as his defense mechanisms kick in and he shows off an array of weaponry that makes him a virtual killing machine. Just when it seems like everything is going to fall apart, Hogarth snaps the Giant out of it by reminding him “You are who you choose to be” and that just because he was built to be a gun, he doesn’t have to act like one. Unfortunately it’s too late as Kent has called in a nuclear strike to take out the entire town. That is until the Iron Giant takes a page out of his favorite comic book hero’s playbook in a scene that would likely make even the meanest person get a little mushy.

Interestingly the Iron Giant was funded and pushed along by Pete Townshend (Of The WHO!) who had previously made a rock opera about the character and even a short animated film. The original story was written by Ted Hughes in 1968 and wouldn’t see it come to fruition as an animated film until 1999. Sadly the movie largely bombed at the box office as it lacked that Disney stamp of approval and so many other animated pictures had been less than stellar, it no doubt effected the final box office. WB heavily marketed the film for it’s video release and it did recoup some there.

Iron Giant is a pretty good little film, with some impressive animation at times and a heartwarming story that repeats a good message. No matter what you were born into, you have to make your own choices to be a good person. Although never a blockbuster, Iron Giant has received acclaimed critical score (Ebert gave it 3 1/2 stars) and as someone who missed out on it the first time I definitely can give it a solid recommendation. You don’t have to have a kid or be a kid to enjoy this film as it’s not a kid’s film in any sense. It’s a people film.

The film has been met with some debate in recent years as some see it as a pacifist subtext to children, while others prop it up for that very same reason. Personally I think too much ballyhoo is on that idea. Guns are bad. That’s not some new idea. Guns are made to kill. So are tanks and bombs. They may have other uses, but their purpose is to cause harm to humans. So was the Iron Giant’s. That’s not the message. It’s how you choose to live your life, that is.

6 Responses to Iron Giant Movie Review

  • Boom says:

    Loved this one. Had a tear in my eye at the end. Epic stuff. Kids need more crap like this. Rented it a few years back after seeing the cool retro art work on the front cover of the DVD.

  • IhLoneWolfxx says:

    Seriously Newt you never saw that? Vin Diesels best work GREAT flick!

  • Beth, the GF says:

    Actually, at the very end of the movie, he was referred to as the Iron Giant in the statue made by that guy, on the plaque. But that was probably the only time I heard/saw it. It was my first time watching it too!

  • IhLoneWolfxx says:

    when he closes his eyes and says superman, i teared up, and still do every time I watch this movie……. don't tell anyone I said that….. no … wait…… lol

  • Annette says:

    Great movie; everyone should see it! This is the film that made me sit up and take notice of Brad Bird (the director). The animation industry needs more guys like him.

  • Bob says:

    Great film. My son loves it too but I owned it before he was born. I'm fond of giant robots for some reason.

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