The Iron GiantThe Iron Giant (1999) Feature Length Theatrical Animated Film by Dave Koch
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- Warner Bros. Feature Animation
- Animated Characters: Hogarth Hughes, Annie Hughes, Dean McCoppin, Iron Giant, Kent Mansley, Mrs. Tensedge, General Shannon Rogard.
- Originally Released in 1999.
- Running Time: 86 minutes.
Cartoon Production Information:
The animation is fluid and, at times, just plain stunning to look at. And for once, it's in the service of a solid story that has more on its mind than just trying to sell some tie-in merchandise.
It doesn't hurt that a real cartoonist is at the helm. Screenwriter-director Brad Bird has worked for TV cartoon series such as "The Simpsons," and he invests his characters with the kind of personality animation that makes the best cartoons so memorable.
The story is an obvious homage to 1950's sci-fi flicks such as The Day the Earth Stood Still. It concerns Hogarth, a small-town '50s kid who comes across the title character, a King Kong-sized metallic creature from another planet. Naturally, hot on Hogarth's heels is a government agent, Kent Mansley, who sees The Iron Giant only as a vaguely defined Communist threat.
That brief synopsis sums up the weakest parts of the movie. As soon as Mansley comes on the scene, spouting "Red Scare" dialogue like a junior Jack Webb, we know he'll be only the typical government bad guy. It doesn't help that he's voiced by Christopher MacDonald, the one-note slimeball from Flubber.)
And The Iron Giant himself is pretty ill-defined. We know he came from Out There, but why he did so remains a mystery throughout. Also, he's a completely developed metal man who nevertheless must eat more metal (such as used cars) to sustain himself. What's up with that? And I have to ask the same question that inquiring little moviegoers will think of: Where and how does he get rid of his, er, metal wastes?
But everything else about the movie is very well thought-out. In the movie's trailers, Hogarth comes off as rather screechy and obnoxious, but the movie gives him more dimension than that. He's an outcast because he's a bit too smart for his own good, so his self-awareness earns our sympathy without begging for it. And instead of waiting for others to decide his destiny, he thinks and acts for himself, which puts him well ahead of most movies' live-action characters.
The supporting characters are also fleshed out nicely. Hogarth's partner is a local beatnik (superbly voiced by Harry Connick, Jr.) who relates to Hogarth's non-conformity. An in contrast to the usual movie portrayl of macho military men, there's an army general (superbly voiced by "Frasier's" John Mahoney) who tries to handle each conflict thoughtfully and who reacts to macho Mansley in his best eye-rolling manner.
The story's preponderance of males, and its take-off point of comic books and sci-fi movies, aims the movie squarely at boys who either haven't grown up or are not interested in doing so. That's too bad, because it's a worthwhile movie for anyone who appreciates intelligent animation.
Review By: Steve Bailey
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