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Animation and Anime

THE IRON GIANT review V. 2.0

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 more)

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 being alone.

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 of creatures.

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 David.’

He lowered his arm and looked at me. He smiled and went to run in circles screeching out, “I’m Superman!”

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 me.

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 gone.

The ending of this film addresses that. And my god it is impressive.

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, fellow geeks.

I.. sigh.

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 world.

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.


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 heart.

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.

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