Friday, May 1, 2009

THE IRON GIANT

by Tobias












> view trailer
This movie makes me feel like a kid every time I see it. Something about the truthful innocence of its goofy child protagonist Hogarth, the comical fish-out-of-water scenario that plays out with the gentle space giant, the stylized and nostalgic cold-war Americana design -- all of its elements just work like gangbusters for me.

The friendship that forms between the earth boy and the clumsy space visitor in THE IRON GIANT speaks volumes about the value of unconditional kindness and tolerance. In that way, it’s one of the best and most valuable buddy films I’ve seen for children, along with E.T. : THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, THE BLACK STALLION and few others. The film’s sturdy economic storyline (lifted from the Ted Hughes book) is cleverly set in the 1950s era of paranoia and post-war idealism, and evokes early DC comics in the best possible way. Hyper-active Hogarth Hughes is one of the most believable and hilarious animated children ever. His squirrel like mannerisms and the silly imagination he displays while trying to teach his iron friend human etiquette make up the most amusing chunks of the film for me. By the time we realize what dangerous secrets the huge metallic amnesiac has in store for Hogarth, the film has brilliantly started to articulate some strong themes of anti-violence and self sacrifice

I believe imaginative children stories—from Sendak to Seuss to Tolkien to Miyazaki to George Lucas, etc.--have an ability to click with adults as much as with kids because they excavate fundamental human qualities from our childhood many of us sadly suppress as a result of the cynicism and pride of “maturity.” This film does that for me.

Master animation director Brad Bird (THE SIMPSONS, RATATOUILLE, THE INCREDIBLES) crafts THE IRON GIANT with an expressive mix of computer and cell animation, great voice acting (Vin Diesel’s haunting voice fits the robot perfectly), and a moving theatrical score by Michael Kamen . Bird’s skills as a visual storyteller are in top form once again on this film; he’s able to keep the characters interesting and set up some thrilling, and moving scenes.

Immediately after I saw this in 1999, I knew it was an instant family classic, the best animated American film of that year for sure; even the sweet sequel to TOY STORY takes a back seat to it for me.

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