The Iron Giant movie review, Brad Bird, Eli Marienthal, Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr, Vin Diesel, Chrostpher McDonald, James Gammon, John Mahoney, M. Emmet Walsh, Cloris Leachman. Review by Rob Blackwelder ©SPLICEDwire
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A scene from 'The Iron Giant'
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3.5 stars
86 minutes | Rated: PG
WIDE: Friday, August 6, 1999
Directed by Brad Bird

Voices of Eli Marienthal, Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr, Vin Diesel, Chrostpher McDonald, James Gammon, John Mahoney, M. Emmet Walsh, Cloris Leachman

This movie is on the Best of 1999 list.

Read our interview Read our interview with writer-director Brad Bird


Shot in Cinemascope in the spirit of the era in which the movie takes place, "Iron Giant" will be best served in wide-screen format if you can find it (you may have to go DVD). But even if you have to go pan-and-scan, this movie is a MUST SEE. Ranks with "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Lion King" as one of the finest American animated movies ever, and is by far the cleverest.

Ahhh, that's much better!

After a disastrous ad campaign led to the movie tanking in theaters, and an original DVD release being equally neglected (the lamest making-of I've ever seen), this landmark animated masterpiece is finally getting the deluxe treatment it deserves in this Special Edition DVD.

The commentary with director Brad Bird ("The Incredibles") and the animators is a good listen, full of behind-the-scenes and evolutionary tidbits that give a real glimpse into the development of story and character. Plus, they're clearly having a good time just watching the movie after five years, and appreciating one another's work in a way that makes you see a lot of detail in the animation.

Featurettes that can cue up during the movie with optional on-screen icons are all interesting, but we should have been able to reach them through the menus too, so you don't have to watch the whole movie (carefully!) just to see them.

The goodies you can reach from the menus include in-depth looks at the film's mock-Civil-Defense cartoons and other period details, and several deleted scenes, including a Giant's dream sequence, with introductions by Brad Bird.

Trailers (see how bad the marketing really was!) and Easter Eggs galore!

The "all new digital transfer" seems to be from the same print as the last DVD. It's sharper and crisper, but the same blemishes (perhaps just part of the hand animation?) are present.

RATIO: 2.35:1 (16x9 enhanced)
DUBS: French
SUBS: English, French, Spanish

DVD RATING: ***1/2

  • Genre Homages
  • Brad Bird
  • Eli Marienthal
  • Jennifer Aniston
  • Harry Connick Jr.
  • Vin Diesel
  • Chrostpher McDonald
  • James Gammon
  • John Mahoney
  • M. Emmet Walsh
  • Cloris Leachman

  •  LINKS for this film
    Official site
    at Rotten Tomatoes
    at Internet Movie Database
    '50s-style sci-fi adventure 'Iron Giant' the best animated movie in years

    By Rob Blackwelder

    The great thing about Warner Bros. animated features is that they haven't lost touch with their cartoony roots.

    The studio's recent releases in the hand-drawn genre, like "Cats Don't Dance" and "Quest for Camelot," have celebrated the simpler, wide-eyed aspects of the art form while Disney and its more direct competitors (Fox's "Anastasia," for instance) edge toward life-like realism.

    But until now Warner's hasn't had a serious contender in the animation wars.

    Enter "The Iron Giant," the most inventive, captivating and cleverly drawn, the most extraordinary -- the coolest -- Hollywood cartoon since the genre was revived 10 years ago.

    The story of a metal-munching, 100-foot robot that falls to Earth during the fearful 1950s and finds himself hunted by a pointy-jawed, paranoid, paranormal investigator in the employ of the War Department, this is the best kind of kids' movie -- a simple morality tale set against a fun, exciting sci-fi adventure.

    The Giant -- a fantastically rendered, post-war comic book amalgam of gears and armor plating -- is something of an innocent, having lost his memory in his crash-landing off the coast of Maine. Confused and hungry, he tries to snack on the steel in a power station and is saved from electrocution by a boy named Hogarth who hides the mighty metal man at a local scrap yard ("Wow! My own giant robot!") and spends his afternoons teaching him the finer points of humanity.

    While it may not be subtle with the social message fodder ("Guns kill," Hogarth explains point-blank), "The Iron Giant" is so joyfully entertaining, visually stylish, intelligent and even poignant, that a little heavy-handedness can be forgiven as a friendship forms between Hogarth and the Giant, who follows him around like a treetop-tall lost puppy.

    Adapted (from Ted Hughes' bedtime story) and directed by Brad Bird, who was working with Disney animators as early as age 14, the story spoofs the Red scare culture of America in the 1950s, even offering up a mock Civil Defense film at Hogarth's school, showing kids hiding under desks and surviving a nuclear holocaust with chipper little smiles on their faces.

    This sense of humor, of course, extends to laughs that will mean a lot more to kids as well. When the hawkish, Ward Cleaver-looking government man tries to buddy up to Hogarth in a soda shop (calling him "sport," "buckaroo," "tiger," "champ," "slugger," etc.), hoping to be lead to the Giant, the boy outsmarts him by sprinkling chocolate laxative on the man's sundae. He spends the next reel making screwed-up faces and desperately seeking restrooms.

    Even funnier: Hogarth takes the Giant swimming and teaches him to do a cannonball, creating a colossal wall of water that washes fish and forest animals across the screen.

    The main thrust of the movie is a great adventure, and there's no mistaking that "The Iron Giant" is boys' fare. There are no handsome princes here. But even so, it has emotional moments that sneak up on you, especially toward the end when the Giant's dormant defensive systems kick in and he transforms into a "War of the Worlds"-inspired, walking arsenal. That's when Hogarth risks his life to remind the metal monster that he doesn't have to be a gun -- he is what he chooses to be.

    The last act of "The Iron Giant" comes on a bit abruptly and feels somewhat rushed and gimmicky -- and although it eventually arrives at a feel-good ending (by way of a wonderful homage to Superman), it taps some seriously stressful, heartbreaking scenes as the robot is under attack.

    But even if they cry a tad, little kids will adore every moment of "The Iron Giant." So will big kids, like me. I've already seen it twice.

    If Warners can continue to produce animated features this handsome and memorable without losing their soul to the ogre of cartoon realism, they may finally be the studio that gives Disney a run for its money.

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