THE IRON GIANT review V. 2.0
Published at: Aug. 3, 1999, 1:30 a.m. CST by staff
My first review for THE IRON GIANT was of an
incomplete movie, some of the animation was still in
pencil form and it had no soundtrack.
I’ve seen it twice in the past two days and I have tons
more to say about this film since seeing it with two
kid and parents filled auditoriums. Having watched
my friends, my sister and my father watch this film.
Listening to them and observing the look in their eyes
as they speak of the film.
Nearly everyone behind the scenes here at AICN has
seen the film at least once, some twice, and we’ll all
be seeing it again this Friday (at least once, maybe
Every now and again we folks here at AICN are lucky
enough to bring a film to your attention. Somehow,
to seemingly discover the film. When we find one of
these jewels, we push the living bejeesus out of it
because something in the film illicits that pure
visceral feeling of wanting the film to succeed.
Not all great films or classic films do succeed. Some
bellyflop tremendously and that’s what I don’t want
to see happen here. Why is this?
I’ve never met Brad Bird. He called me up, almost a
year ago to ask me if I would remove early images of
THE IRON GIANT from AICN, so that the character
could be introduced in the course of the film. I
agreed. That’s the last I heard from him.
My interest in this film spurs from the film itself. The
movie is magical. The first time I saw it in that
cavernous theater of Moriarty’s beneath the city of
angels, I sat in a predominately empty theater.
Maybe 6 people in attendance. It was very much like
Sunday afternoon I went to the paid sneak, took my
father, hooked up with Barbarella and Olive Oyl and
sat in a theater filled with families. Right before the
film began, Robogeek, El Cosmico and Sabu
appeared and took their seats.
The theater wasn’t quite full, but was about 3/4’s full.
As the film began I felt a hush sweep over the
audience. It’s a short little film. A little over 80
minutes, comparable to PINNOCHIO, SNOW
WHITE as well as many classic animated films.
While being oh.... 10 minutes longer than films like
FRANKENSTEIN and the other Universal Horror
films. My point is, a movie is as long as it needs to
be, and THE IRON GIANT is perfect as is.
Each time I have seen it, the film has become stronger
emotionally. As I begin anticipating what is coming,
I inevitably try to steel myself from getting too
involved, but try as I might... I just can’t help but be
taken away by this film.
Tonight as I sat between Copernicus and the ever
loving light of my life, Annette Kellerman I felt my
bottom lip trembling and quivering. Tears were
rolling down both cheeks. I caught Copernicus’ hand
move up to his eyes, and Annette was knocked out.
The day before, I sat between Father Geek and
Barbarella and all three of us were completely
emotionally taken in by this magical film.
Now why? Why are we reacting this way? What is
doing this to me?
Good questions, and I’ll try to answer them.
In regards to the Giant himself, this is a designed
marvel. I’m not talking about him as a purely ‘cool’
design. He is. Point Blank, the robot just looks cool.
But so does Robby the Robot, Gort, Tobor, C3P0 and
R2D2.... However, I am finding myself incredibly
attached to this robot more so than with those.
Sure the Joe Johnston design is cool, but what is
doing this? I’ll tell you. This robot, this ‘big metal
guy’ has a soul. When the little metal shutters begin
changing the shape of his eyes, I’d swear this robot
was smiling or weeping. We never see tears. We
don’t see the smile. But in those lit empty sockets I
see a soul.
I see a confused living being, a robot maybe, but the
Iron Giant is living. The animators on this guy are
nothing short of geniuses. Twice in the film I see the
robot turn up his palms, motion frantically with one
of them, whilst making uncertain noises. This is
Karloff. These guys captured Karloff in this
character. Later, he’s toying with a motionless
thing... The way he touches it, pushes it, it recalls
Willis O’Brien’s Kong.
This is the best animated creation I’ve seen since the
height of Harryhausen’s craft. The creators give
voice to the Iron Giant in a Ludo-styled baritone.
And the sound engineering on him is a masterstroke.
One time while I was talking at length with
Harryhausen he told me the secret to great animation
My ears lit up, my eyes widened. “His secret” echoed
through my mind. I felt as though fire was being
handed to me.
Harryhausen said that a monster, a beast, a creation’s
natural state is not as a monster or a beast. It’s not
created to scare or terrorize. It’s meant to eat and
sleep and walk and simply be.
He told me to watch the most viscous animals in the
world. You’ll see them laying in trees, not set to
pounce, but sleeping. Monsters sleep. A monster is
only a monster to the one it is eating. To the baby
creature in the nest, the monster is Mom or Dad.
And that stuck with me. It’s why Gwangi will scratch
it’s nose or that Kong will play with something idly.
And here... The Giant can get bored, excited, tired
and sleepy. The Giant can be hungry. But the Giant
can care and love and wish to be something more.
It is that capacity to want to be something more than
what he is that wins me. He doesn’t want to just be a
robot. He doesn’t want to kill. He just wants to be
happy and to exist. Simple things. But not in the
world he’s placed in. And it’s that simple ‘fish out of
water’ theme that wins me.
This is, with no doubt in my mind one of the very best
films I’ve seen this decade. The film deals with
controlling one’s capacity for violence, the meaning
of friendship, the ability to look past the surface. It
has to do with where the soul is and whether
humanity is specific to humans.
I love this film. Not like those guilty pleasures you
watch late at night. But with the same voracious
appetite for love that you speak of a film that really
and truly let’s loose with a spark of genius that
catches ablaze into a full blown forest fire.
How does it affect kids?
All around me were children. And during the film I
could hear them squeal with joy, laugh and giggle.
When the film gets more intense I discovered
something rather odd. I heard children reassuring
their parents that everything was going to ‘alright’.
Tonight I heard a child tell their mother, “Mom,
killing is bad.”
Another child asked their parent about the soul.
Great! Exactly what is needed and desired. After the
film I ran into Glen and his kid Lil’ David. As always
David came running up to hit me in my belly, and I
shook my finger and told him, ‘Don’t be a gun
He lowered his arm and looked at me. He smiled and
went to run in circles screeching out, “I’m
I’m sorry, but that’s beautiful. Of all the things to
teach a child to want to be, Superman is as good a
thing as any.
Finally I want to address the last third of the movie,
and I’m going to do it in the vaguest possible manner.
The last third of the film transcends all that came
before. It heads the story towards the conflicts
you’ve seen in the trailers. But there is so much more
that is still unseen.
I will not spoil this for you, but when you see it... I
just want to give you my feelings on this. While what
I’m seeing is infact some of the coolest science
fictiony thingees a happening, I couldn’t allow my
techno-fetish to kick in because what I saw repulsed
It was watching a soul disappear and turn into... an
abusive loved one.
My mom turned into the gun for the last 7 years of
her life. She became a very ugly destructive person
out to destroy not only herself but all of those around
her. She had sane moments, flashes of tenderness,
but she had become a gun. She was no longer the
person I loved, the look in the eyes was gone, the
sound of her voice hardened and my mother was
The ending of this film addresses that. And my god it
The folks that worked on this film have my love and
admiration. You people, you artists... You brought a
bit of perfection into my life, and I want to share this
with everyone. People I know, loved ones, strangers,
In this world we have so many people that are guns.
This isn’t about possessing them, but rather the
instant lashing out that a gun brings with it. This
should be required viewing by every family in this
The movie should become, for all time, a part of the
familial unit. Families should watch it together and
rejoice and learn.
When people now speak the name Brad Bird it should
be with reverence. This is, purely and surely, one of
the greatest films, animated or live-action, I have
taken into my heart.
For me, I’ll watch it like I watch A CHRISTMAS
STORY, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, PINNOCHIO
And that toy in my room. I look at it and I smile. It’s
just a minor 15 degree shift in vision from this screen
to my big metal guy and Hogarth. A mere 15 degrees
to reach my smile.
Go see this movie. Take friends, pack em all up.
Don’t let your day care take the kid first, go this
weekend. The movie works on two different levels of
watching. That of the child’s and the perspective of
an adult. The movies are completely different.
By the way, if it seems like this week I’m talking a lot
about THE IRON GIANT... well, the simple truth
is.... I am pushing it like hell. I do not want to see
this be brushed off as some sort of ‘also ran’ flick.
When I think that FANTASIA failed it’s first time
out, I get angry. That film deserved to be heralded
and succeed instantly instead of breaking Walt’s
This film has to succeed. Why? Because Brad Bird
must be allowed total creative freedom to create more
works of genius. The Warner Brothers Feature
Animation opening of this film should be reserved
exclusively for Brad’s work, lest it be tainted by
eyesores like POKEMON.
Go watch perfection this weekend.