The Iron Giant

Summary from Wikipedia: The Iron Giant is a 1999 American animated science fiction film using both traditional animation and computer animation, produced by Warner Bros. Animation, and based on the 1968 novel The Iron Man by Ted Hughes. The film is about a lonely boy named Hogarth raised by his mother (the widow of an Air Force pilot), who discovers an iron giant who fell from space. With the help of a beatnik named Dean, they have to stop the U.S. military and a federal agent from finding and destroying the Giant. 

(1) What I liked about it:  The Iron Giant presents simply a deceptively un-simple idea, the idea that we define ourselves.  It does so both by stating the idea directly and through embodiment in the title character.  Early in the film, Dean, a beatnik artist played by Harry Connick Jr., responds to Hogarth’s description of school bullying by asking him rhetorically, “Who cares what those creeps think? They don’t decide who you are, you do. You are who you choose to be.”  Unfortunately, our choices are often limited, and in the case of the Iron Giant they come down to two, each represented by characters from Hogarth’s comics: he can be the self-sacrificing hero, like Superman, or he can be a mindless, indescriminate but nevertheless highly-effective killing machine, like Atomo.

Set in the 1950’s, The Iron Giant is a wonderful homage to pulp fiction.  The robot looks like something out of a Max Fleischer cartoon, and the spoof of educational PSAs regarding the still present yet oddly somehow less tangible threat of nuclear holocaust is hysterical.

Finally, it is by far my favorite Vin Diesel movie.

(2) What I didn’t like about it:  The movie is perhaps a tad too simplistic in its anti-gun, anti-military message.  “It’s bad to kill. Guns kill,” Hogarth tells the giant.  Yet Hogarth arms himself when he goes out to investigate the mysterious object which has crash landed near his house, and it is only the Iron Giant, himself a weapon, who can be wielded fire vs. fire style against the nukes.

(3) Additional Thoughts:  Ted Hughes?  Really?  That Ted Hughes?  Sylvia Plath’s Ted Hughes?  Hummph.


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