Cinema-Maniac: The Iron Giant (1999) Movie Review

Animation filmmaking is one area I don’t touch on frequently. The genre does interest me, but very rarely do I personally feel that its even taken advantage to its full potential. What’s often categorize as a family friendly genre can visualize a greater connection to reality that wouldn’t be captured the same way in a live action film. “The Iron Giant” is one of those films that in live action form special effects regardless of quality would have distracted from the true heart and power within its story and characters.

The Iron Giant is about a boy befriending an innocent giant robot that a paranoid government agent wants to destroy. Structurally “The Iron Giant” plays out similar to another classic “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial”; in both a kid encounters a begin from space, befriends the space begin who is stranded on earth, takes it home and hides it from his mother (yet oddly in both film there’s no father present), and the paranoid government come into play. While both films share similar plot threads and aside from sharing the same quality that’s where the comparison between these two films end. Characters are sophisticated and their interactions with one another feels natural. Conversations never allude to anything specifically plot related every moment of humor and drama is a genuine occurrence in these characters everyday life. Both the human characters and our giant robot are treated as equal. Instead of seeing the iron giant as a piece of machinery we see the iron giant as a living being. Identifying with the iron giant as much as we do with the human characters. Giving events a greater sense of emotion, a greater sense of importance, and more involving seeing every outcome.

Political commentary is risking especially in this film when the setting is just days after the Russians launched the Sputnik satellite. The atmosphere is tense and paranoid in this time setting. What the iron giant metaphors is easy to grasp with scenes hinting perhaps this other worldly creation has a different function. Later on sending a message about being a weapon through key development scenes. Unlike the humans we never learn about the iron giant past or purpose. Like a weapon we presume the intention is a path of destruction. If the iron giant was never given any human traits this would have been a cautionary tale about humans thrive for creating weapons eventually killing them. In this film we have a giant robot who is programmed to do a specific function. However, his interactions define his decision and questions what he was program to do. It’s as much the iron giant story to not follow a set path programmed for him as much as it is a our human character story on the escalation of fearing the unknown.

Animation mixes hand-drawn imagery coupled with a computer-generated iron giant. The title character is a 3D composition done digitally, mixed with the 2D action surrounding him. There are some highly imaginative shots of the robot mixing in with the film’s environment with aura of an classic sci-fi feel surrounding him and his design. Detail is evident in the whole: the season subtly changes from fall to winter; the characters are always doing something, even if they aren’t directly in focus; in some parts of the movie the little details actually become crucial to the movie’s strength and validity. Character designs and voice actors who made them come to life verbally were perfect. Eli Marienthal fitted very well with the animated design of the character. Harry Connick Jr. was just as good at being humorous. Kent Mansley, our main antagonist, was very well designed and acted. Christopher McDonald relatively calm voice made the villain memorable. The Iron Giant himself is voiced by Vin Diesel. While Diesel says very little he sounds exactly like a robot, but hints slightly of perhaps adopting a speaking pattern to that of a human.

The Iron Giant is a masterpiece. Transcending beyond an hand drawn two dimensional plain to provide three dimensional characters whose interaction are so natural you don’t feel like you’re watching a piece of vividly drawn fiction.

10/10

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