Under The Radar: The Iron Giant (1999)
Updated: Nov 20, 2022
After the run-away success of The Lion King, every movie studio was jumping on the animated film band wagon. Warner Bros. even created the Warner Bros. Feature Animation division and they put Brad Bird, a young and talented animator with an understanding of the fundamentals of “old school” animation, at the helm. He would bring fresh and exciting new ideas that would engage modern movie goers.
Brad Bird made a name for himself when he submitted a short film to Disney and it impressed legendary animator Milt Kahl (Sleeping Beauty, Peter pan & Lady and the Tramp) to the point of making Bird his protégée. A few years later, Brad got his first shot at writing and directing for Steven Spielberg’s T.V. series, Amazing Stories. However, things really took off when Brad started working on the Simpson’s series. He directed the classic episode, Krusty Gets Busted.
When Brad signed on to Warner Bros. Feature Animation, he knew he couldn’t go toe to toe with Disney by simply copying their formulaic movies therefore Brad Bird decided to take a different route and based his screenplay for his first feature film, on the 1968 novel: The Iron Man by poet Ted Hughes.
The movie is set in the coastal town of Maine in 1957, where a boy named Hogarth Hughes makes friends with an alien giant robot from outer space. Meanwhile, a paranoid U.S. Government agent named Kent Mansley arrives in town, determined to destroy the giant at all costs.
Seems like a standard story of boy meets robot, but the movie is so much more than that. The film, while extremely entertaining is layered with some very important and powerful messages such as life, death, individuality & destiny. It truly makes the Iron Giant an interesting watch. One of the scenes that has always stood out, for me, is when Hogarth and the Giant see a deer killed by hunters; Hogarth explains the nature of mortality and its place in the cycle of life: “It’s bad to kill,” he tells the Giant, “but it’s not bad to die.” The Giant, who is effectively a child, is rattled by the idea of mortality, but Hogarth comforts him with the notion that their souls will live on—and yes, he’s sure the Giant has one. “You’re made of metal,” Hogarth reasons, “but you have feelings, and you think about things, and that means you have a soul.”
The movie continues to shine with its powerful message of individuality & destiny, which comes to fruition during the epic battle at the end of the film. Here The Iron Giant while in battle mode is stopped by Hogarth, who reminds the giant “It's bad to kill. Guns kill and you don't have to be a gun. You are what you choose to be. You choose. Choose.”
The Iron Giant is a great film that provides loads of entertainment and has some pretty great messages. You can see that the entire cast and crew really poured their heart and soul into each and every frame. The characters are great and the development of their relationship through out the film allows the audience to become part of the characters’ journey.
Well, the film has finally been given its just due, by being remastered and rereleased on DVD and Blu-ray. The Iron Giant looks and sounds better than ever with the added bonus of having the original theatrical cut and the directors preferred version on one disc.
It may not have been a box office smash, but that shouldn’t stop from watching one of the greatest animated films of our time. The Iron Giant boasts a very impressive cast (Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr., Vin Diesel, Cloris Leachman, Christopher McDonald & John Mahoney) who have gone on to be heavy hitters in the entertainment world. If you have never seen The Iron Giant, this is one of a few films that is perfect for the whole family.