Film: The Iron Giant

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Film:

The Iron Giant

Director: Brad Bird
Honors:
Genres:
Distributor: Warner Home Video

This gentle reworking of Ted Hughes’s 1968 novella was the unseen gem of 1999. Hogarth, a young boy who lives in the Maine woods during the cold war, befriends a giant robot. As with E.T., the iron giant is a misunderstood outsider who becomes a child’s best friend, and Hogarth does his best to hide the massive figure from his mom (voiced by Jennifer Aniston) and the local scrap-yard beatnik (Harry Connick Jr.). Soon the suspicions of neighbors and a government agent (Christopher McDonald) spell trouble.

With no songs, no sidekicks, and no cheap ending,…

Reviews

Amazon.com

This gentle reworking of Ted Hughes’s 1968 novella was the unseen gem of 1999. Hogarth, a young boy who lives in the Maine woods during the cold war, befriends a giant robot. As with E.T., the iron giant is a misunderstood outsider who becomes a child’s best friend, and Hogarth does his best to hide the massive figure from his mom (voiced by Jennifer Aniston) and the local scrap-yard beatnik (Harry Connick Jr.). Soon the suspicions of neighbors and a government agent (Christopher McDonald) spell trouble.

With no songs, no sidekicks, and no cheap ending, The Iron Giant is a refreshing change—like an off-Broadway production compared to the glitz of Disney’s annual animated extravaganzas. Director Brad Bird may have Family Dog and The Simpsons to his credit, but this film doesn’t have that brand of scatological humor. As with the best family entertainments, there are gags that adults will howl at while the kids are watching something else (see Bird’s interpretation of cold war propaganda). And the star is one cool piece of animated magic. Voiced by Vin Diesel (Saving Private Ryan’s hulking Private Caparzo) and filled with more gadgets than a Swiss army knife, the giant is a grand thing to behold. And like another famous cinema tin man, our hero—and the movie—has heart. Superb entertainment for ages 5 and up. —Doug Thomas

Barnes and Noble

Directed by Brad Bird (of “The Simpsons”) and based on a storybook by British poet laureate Ted Hughes, The Iron Giant was among 1999’s very best family films despite its inexplicably swift departure from theaters. Set in 1957 against a backdrop of cold war paranoia engendered by Russia’s Sputnik launch, this is a deeply satisfying and lushly animated parable of friendship and trust. In the woods near his bucolic Maine hometown, imaginative nine-year-old Hogarth (voiced by Eli Marienthal) rescues and befriends a titanic mechanical man that has fallen from the sky. Hogarth must keep the iron man hidden from his mother (Jennifer Aniston) and a snooping government agent (Christopher McDonald) determined to find the metal man and destroy it. The expert cast of voices also includes Harry Connick Jr. as Dean, a beatnik and aspiring artist whose junkyard provides sanctuary and sustenance for the robot. Programmed with the potential to be either a ferocious weapon of a 50-foot toy, the giant has a few things to iron out, and Hogarth there to help him. A towering filmmaking achievement, The Iron Giant is finally finding the audience it so richly deserves. Donald Liebenson

Related Works

Album:The Iron Giant: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

The Iron Giant: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Michael Kamen

English poet laureate Ted Hughes originally conceived The Iron Giant as an instructive diversion for his and wife Sylvia Plath’s children. In the 80’s, the Who’s Pete Townshend adapted it as a rock-oriented album and stage musical. But in transforming it into a feature-length animated film, director Brad Bird (The Simpsons, King of the Hill) added a hipster retro-’50s sensibility that colorfully evokes the era’s various obsessions with cold war angst, flying saucers, space travel, and hi-fi. The film’s soundtrack captures those often-anxious…

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