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August 6, 2004

{     The Iron Giant     }    

_The Iron Giant_ is a story of a boy and his robot. For those of you out there, like myself, who have dreamt of having the phrase "and his (or her) robot" as an epitaph this review is probably just preaching to the choir. Unless of course you missed it, as much of America did, in which case read on fellow robot geeks! You're gonna love this. Okay, so this movie _did_ come out about 5 years ago now. It ain't exactly fresh fodder for discussion. I'm convinced, however, that not nearly enough people saw this delightful little tale of a giant robot's quest for identity. No great effort was made to remind you that it existed. While the film was being produced Warner Bros. was shutting down it's animated feature division. The makers would come into work and find things missing, removed in secret during the night. There wasn't even a poster ready when it was released. _The Iron Giant_ was quietly dropped into theaters in the summer of 1999 and left to fade into memory. Thankfully for all of us, the children's home video market is strong and true, and _The Iron Giant_ was released to VHS and the somewhat new-fangled DVD later that fall. But _The Iron Giant_ is a "children's movie" only in the respect that it isn't an "adult movie." I don't mean to contrast it to porno, mind you. What I mean is it isn't aimed squarely at an adult audience. The story and themes of _The Iron Giant_ are familiar to viewers of all ages, whether or not you wished for a similar 60-foot-high robot companion. The story is simple: giant robot falls to earth, meets young boy who befriends him. This being the height of the Cold War, just after the Russians have launched Sputnik, folks are a bit nervous about foreigners, particularly those able to crush their Norman Rockwell homes into powder. The government gets involved and things almost turn out very, very badly. What makes _The Iron Giant_ rise above the pablum that so often passes for children's fare is the respect the creators show for their audience. Death is dealt with directly and honestly. Rather than shirk these unpleasant facts of life the movie acknowledges that people die, that people kill other people, and that this is a choice they made. That choice can equally be unmade, and that is the choice the giant must make when he realizes his awesome power. It's interesting to go back and watch this film again, in this age of candy-colored terror alerts and honest-to-goodness Departments of Homeland Security. The antagonist, an over-eager agent of a government department devoted to unexplained phenomena named Kent Mansley, seems quite a bit less ludicrous after you've seen french fries turn into freedom fries. "We didn't build it," he tells Hogarth, the human star of this picture "so that's reason enough to assume the worst." The ending is one of the coolest, saddest, and most satisfying moments ever displayed on a movie screen. I'll not say any more than it always, and I've watched this picture at least a dozen times, leaves me dewy eyed and sniffling. A special edition will be released in the start of September. Whether this release is schedule to capitalize on director Brad Bird's latest movie "The Incredibles":http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0317705/ or the Vin Diesel (who voiced the giant) vehicle "Riddick":http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0296572/ is a bit hard to say as _The Incredibles_ doesn't come out until December and aside from the "game":http://www.gamerankings.com/htmlpages2/919755.asp I've not heard anyone say anything nice about _Riddick_. Better late than never is all I have to say.

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Seeing as I'm going to buy the special edition next month I won't be needing my regular edition much longer. The first person to e-mail me his or her mailing address gets it. This just so happens to be the first DVD I ever purchased, so the sentimental value is through the roof.

Posted by: benjamin at August 6, 2004 6:00 AM

I really can't express how much I agree with Benjamin's excellent review of this tragically overlooked film.
It is the only US animated feature that I feel comes close to touching the wonder and magic of a Hiyao Miyazaki film, and for once I felt a faint glimmer of hope for the future of US animation. This film is stylish as hell, with a sharp deco look that distinguished it from the soft-edged Disney crowd. Thematically, it's a huge departure from standard family fodder and the big D hasn't touched the subject of death in any significant way (no, the Lion King does not count) since Bambi. I really saw this film as something transcendent, much more than just a cartoon, and perhaps even the forerunner to a more serious approach to animation in the States.
Now that everything on this side of the globe has gone the way of the pixel or devolved into brain-dead mind candy for the toddler market, I guess my hopes were unfounded. Sigh. Time to move to Japan.

Posted by: Adam at August 6, 2004 4:16 PM

A movie who make you believe a robot can cry.

Posted by: Newman at August 13, 2004 1:39 AM

what hapend when the giant dies at the end please send back so please tell me your bigest fan james

Posted by: james at November 4, 2007 7:19 PM

what hapend when the giant dies at the end please send back so please tell me your bigest fan james

Posted by: james at November 4, 2007 7:19 PM
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