Dir: Brad Bird
Stars: Eli Marienthal, Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr, Christopher MacDonald, John Mahoney, Vin Diesel
On Saturday past I watched The Iron Giant with my parents. I really quite enjoyed it. It looked really lovely and the seamless blending of traditional animation with what I would call cell-shaded 3d provided a luscious and affecting visual spectacle. 1950s America is faithfully recreated in animated form and there’s a little bit near the start where Hogarth sits up to watch a B-movie horror and the main character from it sounds like Rod Sterling. The little snippet of the film we see is brilliantly funny, although my mum and dad didn’t really get the joke. The rest of the film also has a great sense of humour, ranging from little nods and observational comedy, to very enjoyable physical humour and a delight in Hogarth’s flights of fancy. The relationship between Hogarth and the eponymous metal man is touching and speaks to our own memories of childhood, of that trusting nature, as well as simply wanting a giant robot friend. The character of the robot as friendly, bumbling and childlike is brought to life brilliantly by the animation and sound design, and the design of the robot itself is wonderful. The voice cast is also excellent, with Jennifer Aniston performing particularly well, given her limited experience with voice acting.
There’s a lot more going on than a simple boy and his robot story. There’s a lot of commentary about social perception with the inclusion of a “beatnik” character who’s an artist and a good-guy and a wonderfully slimy government agent, who personifies the hawkish nature of many people during the cold war, albeit in fevered monologues, but it all works within the confines of the film. The ultimate nature of the robot is a keen representation of the principle of mutually assured destruction and more subtly the rage and power bubbling beneath the surface of any child. I thought the social and warfare commentary worked very well and was clear and easily understood, as were the issues of accepting an alien creature and the mistrust of the unknown. The only part I didn’t think was handled well was when Hogarth and the Giant talk about death and souls. It felt a little “crowbared” in to me and slightly awkward.
I enjoyed the film a lot and am sorry that it’s been so long since I read the Ted Hughes book that I can’t compare the two. Funny, pretty and powerful, I give The Iron Giant a strong recommendation.