The Iron Giant (1999)
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr, Vin Diesel, Eli Marienthal, Christopher McDonald, John Mahoney
Directed By: Brad Bird
I borrowed this from theskooch awhile ago, but took my time getting around to seeing it. I did want to watch it, as I love director Brad Bird's The Incredibles, but I was busy. I got things to do. It's too bad I didn't watch it earlier, since the guy we were staying with on our recent vacation was a big fan of the flick, having a bunch of Iron Giant figures decorating his house. I could've talked more about it, other than saying "I loved The Incredibles". Ah well, what's done is done. I've seen it now, which is good, because it would otherwise be really irresponsible of me to review it.
All in all, it's a pretty good movie. It's not transcendent like Bird's next film, but easily ranks with the best studios like Disney have to offer (NOTE: this is not a Disney film). Story-wise, it follows the same pattern as many animated films, following a plucky-but-lonely kid on an adventure with a mysterious new friend. Instead of the friend being a dog, or wise old sage, or a dragon or something, this time it's a robot from outer space. The main story itself is fairly standard, and should be easily digested family fare. I'm not saying it's bad, cause it isn't, in fact, it's positive family entertainment that should push the right buttons for children.
Beneath the main story, however, is something far more subversive, a subtext that elevates the picture beyond standard American animated films. Basically, The Iron Giant is a big lefty movie, barely hiding its non-conformist, anti-gun, pro-peace agenda. And to that, I say thumbs up. With its positive portrayal of a single working mother (Jennifer Aniston), its satirical look at America in the atomic age and the anachronistic way it has since been portrayed, its government agent as villain (Christopher McDonald), and the artsy beatnik father figure (Harry Connick Jr), this ain't Uncle Walt's kind of cartoon. The movie plays as a modern parable on identity, trust, and honour, and beneath the surface works on an intellectual level as much as it works on an emotional level on the surface.
I found the flick to be quite clever and charming without being smirking or condescending. It is also brilliantly animated, looking at once fresh and modern, while delivering a retro style that gives it a classic feel. The colours are sharp, and at times scenes are positively serene. If this sounds like The Iron Giant is a poor movie for children, it's not. Children are clearly the main target for the film (as they should be), a movie that is a child's fantasy come to life, following young Hogarth Hughes (Eli Marienthal) and his wacky adventures with his robot buddy (Vin Diesel). Hogarth plays like most child protagonists in movies, fun-loving, precocious, curious, and ultimately more knowing and clever than most adults in the movie. Kids will easily identify with him, then have their own Iron Giant adventures in their imaginations.
Despite all the positives, which significantly outweigh the negatives, this is no perfect movie. Besides following the standard plotting of other children's animated features, the movie basically apes E.T., only setting it in a fifties environment, and making the robot more dangerous than the little alien. Other than that, it's pretty much the animated version of Spielberg's film. It's a worthwhile film, and an enjoyable one, but nothing you haven't seen before.