Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Iron Giant Film Review


Director: Brad Bird
Cast: Eli Marienthal, Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick, Jr., Vin Diesel, Christopher McDonald, John Mahoney
MPAA Rating: PG
Length: 87 minutes.

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Duck and Cover

Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Aniston, and Vin Diesel decide to make a film … and against all odds it turns out to be brilliant.  I never would have never believed it was possible, but this film proves my theory wrong.

The Iron Giant will nuke your childhood.  It’s sentimental exploration of life, death, choices, and humanity is done with beautiful simplicity. This hour and half animated film is considered one of the best animated films ever made, and for good reason, too. It should be watched by everyone.

In 1957 a massive Iron Giant (Vin Diesel) crash lands in the ocean near Rockwell Maine.  As it heads towards land he unwittingly creates a path of destruction as he needs to survive by eating metal.  While on land he befriends Hogarth Hughes (Eli Marienthal) a young child who teaches the giant how to speak and about the culture of Earth.

The U.S. government begins to investigate the strange reports coming out of Maine and they send the paranoid agent Kent Mansley (Christopher McDonald) to investigate.  Convinced, the Iron Giant is an enemy of the U.S. Mansley wishes to destroy it.  It’s up to Hogarth, his mother (Jennifer Aniston), and a scrapyard owner (Harry Connick Jr.) to keep the Iron Giant safe.

The Iron Giant inserts a lot of social commentary in its story long before a myriad of social commentary become part of great animated films.  It’s no surprise that director Brad Bird would later go on to make a number of films with Pixar that explored similar issues.  The Iron Giant parodies 1950’s McCarthyism, the atomic age, duck and cover videos, and general U.S. paranoia and propaganda.

Despite the exploration of these political issues, this movie is really about exploring people’s choices. The quote – “you are who you chose to be” – is echoed frequently.  A lot of Superman references are used to explore the choice to be a good person; Hogarth often tells the Iron Giant to be like Superman.

Despite its heavy tone there are plenty of light hearted funny moments. Scrapyard owner Dean likes to make modern art sculptures out of trash – character reactions to this along with the design of some of these sculptures is ridiculous. Hogarth’s obsession with animals leads to an entertaining scene with a squirrel and a cafe.  But my personal favorite is when Hogarth decides to drink a cup of espresso.

The animation is done in a hand drawn style with some instances of CG being used.  This style of animation has gone out of favor, but works well in this film. Unintentionally it helps give it a nostalgic feel. The voice acting is top notch – you won’t even recognize Vin Diesel’s voice as the Iron Giant.

Jennifer Aniston holds her own as the concerned single mother of Hogarth, Harry Connick Jr. adds some comic relief via Dean,  while Christopher McDonald’s rendition of the paranoid U.S. Agent Kent Mansley wavers between insane and creepy.  Make no mistake Eli Marienthal is the star of this film.  His voicing of Hogarth covers the enthusiasms of youth all the way to the sufferings of loss.

The Iron Giant is deep. It tells a surprisingly dark story, and covers a broad range of emotion that was atypical to most of the animated films that came before it.  I would recommend this movie to children and adults, it should easily appeal to most people.

Score: 9.6

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