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The Iron Giant (Special Edition) back to product details

The Best
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written by hamano October 26, 2003 - 1:43 PM PST
2 out of 2 members found this review helpful
This is hands down the BEST American anime film ever. It's hard to believe, but the USA has defeated Japan in the Giant Robot Anime challenge. 40 years from now it will be hailed as a masterpiece. Long after Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick and Vin Diesel are dead and forgotten, their voices will live on as the characters in this movie. Have you clicked "RENT" yet?

LOOSELY based on a story that poet Ted Hughes wrote for his children 5 years after their mother Sylvia Plath's suicide. Comfort? Atonement?

A Highlight of Middle Childhood
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written by dwhudson July 4, 2002 - 1:24 PM PDT
8 out of 8 members found this review helpful
Most people think you only have to go through childhood twice. You've got a handful of decades in the middle, maybe less, and you spend them chasing love and money and dealing with the frustrations of never having enough of either. A lot of your first childhood is ridiculously wasted on eagerly anticipating this mess; the second on wishing you had it to do all over again.

But for those who spawn along the way, there's yet another childhood slipped into the middle of it all. You don't live it as fully as Childhoods I and II, but vicariously, through the eyes and emotions of the people you care most about in the world, your kids, and that's intense enough. You rediscover the taste of candy corn, the sheer wonder of snow and the furious injustice of being bullied. Among other things.

And then, in return, you let them in on a little secret: the hypnotic power of movies and TV. And often enough, you end up watching what they watch. Sometimes this is going to mean reruns; sharing the stuff you loved when you were their age. There's no way around going through the entire Disney ouevre, for example. Other times, they're the guides, introducing you to Powerpuff Girls, Lilo, Stitch and armies and armies of -mons.

Basically, when a movie comes out for kids, it's an event and they're not going to miss it and neither are you. Oh, you can miss the theatrical release. But at some point, thanks to the wonder of video, and now, DVD, you'll catch 'em all.

So here's the good news: When it comes to The Iron Giant, you are in luck. Nothing against Disney, but, as much as the styles may vary (or not), all the narratives pretty much run together. There's an iron-clad cast (protagonist, diminutive sidekick, bad guy, love interest) and story (discovery of mission, seeming failure, big loud triumph). You go through a dozen of these or so and you can just imagine the joy of running across a flick every bit as good as any Disney feature but that somehow breathes a different air.

Unfortunately, Warner Bros. either didn't know what it had on its hands or didn't know how to promote The Iron Giant. The movie fell off the charts when it was released and its small but dedicated following now is its only hope. The cover of the DVD, for example, isn't very promising. A boy and his robot. Oh, boy. The story sounds like an E.T. rip-off. To be fair, there are similarities (fatherless kid hides alien with remarkable powers from his Mom and the rest of the world until things get out of hand), but, as the blurb up there says, Ted Hughes wrote this one in 1968.

Part of its charm (and willful naivete) is that it's set in a small town in New England in the Eisenhower years. The only subversive element around is the relatively safe and pretty darn cute beatnik (nicely voiced by Harry Connick, Jr, who, like Tom Waits, has spent his life pretending he was born a couple of decades too late anyway). And actually, the town looks pretty idyllic -- except that, for a kid, it's boring and lonely.

Enter the robot. One of the most beautiful aspects of the story is that we never learn where he came from (he simply plunges to Earth from outer space) and hardly anyone brings the up the question, much less dwells on it (as E.T. did; all our robot wants to do is live in peace with his new friend).

Enter the antagonist, a military mind sharpened on the grindstone of the Cold War. Now, there's nothing really wrong with this, and I certainly didn't mind having my youngest exposed to a (literally) cartoon portrayal of this mindset, but you've got to admit it's a rarity these days. It plays differently in a post-9/11 world in which there's an almost universal feeling that having defenses at the ready in some form or another may not be a bad idea.

The Iron Giant unabashedly argues that it is. There is another, darker side to the robot that even he is unaware of until he perceives a threat, and the movie makes sure the kids understand that the threat is completely unnecessary. All in all, it's a very 60s reading of things, which is why the story all but had to be set in the 50s.

At any rate, again: Especially those who've been overdosing on usual kids' fare, the dialog, the look, the whole is marvelously refreshing. There's no skimping on action, either, with a boisterous storm at sea to start things off, a terrifically comic tidal wave and so on. Plus, the giant is just huge and the possibilities there are explored with real imagination.

As for the kids, I'd suggest age 5 and up; 6 or 7 on up would probably be better. There are a few scares, but most importantly, the ending looks like it's going to be Bambi-scale devastating, and you're going to have to hold a hand tight right up the very, very final frames. You'll be glad you're there to do it, though.

12345678910

(Average 7.84)
312 Votes
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