The Iron Giant (1999)

Directed by Brad Bird
Written by Tim McCanlies

I really love animated films. I could try to explain why, but in the end there really is no other explanation than the simple fact that I am just a big kid. There is just something about the medium that is so magical and spectacular. The imagination is endless and as such there is not a single story for which the medium would not be able to tell. Animation just allows the filmmakers and the audience to imagine anything they want up on the screen and with such innovators as Walt Disney and in the present day John Lasseter of Pixar and Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli, there seems to be no end in sight for the wonderful world of animation, which is too often cornered into the kids genre. True, kids love them, but many times they can be just as appealing to adults as to the children.

Little man Hogarth Hughes is a strange little boy living in 1950s Rockwell, Maine with his single mother Annie who works at the local diner. An only child, Hogarth has a vivid imagination, but when a man is washed upon shore with a tale of a strange encounter, Hogarth soon finds himself face to face with a giant iron robot who eats metal. Soon enough Hogarth strikes up a friendship with the foreigner and finds the perfect hideout: the local junkyard, which is owned by the loner Dean McCoppin. The two soon have to protect the friendly robot from an imposing federal officer named Kent Masley, who feels as though the robot is a foreign threat to the United States.

The director here is Brad Bird, and that fact is not insignificant because everybody knows that he went on to direct two of Pixar’s many so called “masterpieces”: The Incredibles and Ratatouille. But this film, too, has long had a high reputation when it comes to animated films, and yet it somehow escaped me, which is inextricable because of my love of adventure and childhood imagination. It seems like the perfect story for me as a viewer and for an animated adventure. It has all of the right ingredients from a lovely friendship, which is between Hogarth and the giant as well as Hogarth and Dean; it has the slimy bad guy from the government; and it even has the sense of grandeur built into the story to allow for some spectacular images, which is always a plus for me.

There are very great moments sprinkled throughout the film which mostly stem from the great character of Hogarth, which let’s face it starts with his name, and his relationship to both the giant and Dean, and honestly the relationship with Dean is even better. The obvious connection is the giant and Hogarth, but Hogarth connects with Dean, who is a bit different than anyone else in 1950s Maine and lives by himself on the outskirts of town, building strange junkyard art which no one would be able to appreciate. It’s brilliant. Just as is little field trip the three of them take to the nearby lake. Talk about a moment, which encapsulates the charm of the film that is found within its wonderful sense of humor.

Perhaps I missed the time frame on this one, but I didn’t make an immediate connection to the film as a classic or masterpiece or animated favorite in the ways I did when I first saw something like Wall-E or Up. That being said it does everything very well and a lot of that credit should be laid upon Brad Bird, who obviously showed his potential early on. I know many people might be disappointed by the fact that I did not gush my soul over this film, but I still appreciated it a great deal and can see this being the perfect childhood film for a great number of kids, including those which someday be mine.

 

Adam Kuhn

Adam Kuhn was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, where he attended Saint Charles Preparatory School. He studied History at the University of Cincinnati, where he was a contributor of The News Record, the twice-weekly, independent student news organization. He has been writing film reviews and blogging since 2009.

3 comments

  • This is one of my other half's favourite films, and it always appears over here in the top animated/family film count downs. Have you read the book at all? It's by Ted Hughes, I read it when I was a lot younger and remember enjoying it. The film is adorable, although not to the standards of Pixar!

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  • I have not read the book, and I agree it is adorable. I do not see why everything animated must be compared to Pixar. This is great film which should be shown to the youth because it is a fun, enjoyable film. That is enough for me.

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