Today I revisited a movie that I remember loving as a kid, and then never rewatching as an adult for some reason. This movie brought back such nostalgia for movie day at school where they would roll in that clunky TV set and we would all lose our minds. It was always The Brave Little Toaster, Schoolhouse Rock, or this gem- The Iron Giant.
The Iron Giant is about a giant robot that descends from space and befriends a nine-year old named Hogarth (yes his name is indeed Hogarth) in 1950s Maine.
I never knew this movie was directed by Brad Bird, who is known mostly for writing Pixar’s The Incredibles, Ratatouille. He also most recently began penning The Incredibles 2, which I’m sure we all hope he reprises the role of his iconic fashionista Edna Mode. The cast is surprisingly famous for this 1999 classic including Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr., and Vin Diesel, who voiced this lovable giant long before he lent his grunting charm to Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy.
Let’s just be clear, before Wall-E if you told me I could fall in love with a literal robot, I wouldn’t believe you. It is so difficult to create an emotional character out of essentially a giant chunk of metal. Creating a likable character that has limited speech patterns and emotional facial features is so difficult, but this movie nails it. This movie creates such a cute and simple relationship between boy and robot that teaches about the destructive forces of men on a micro and macro level and warns about the dangers of escalating military violence. It even comments on the potential of atomic disaster that constantly loomed over Cold War America. Yeah, I know heavy stuff for a 90s kids flick. Still it handles it so well, and tells an honest story about love, friendship, and sacrifice. Sure it is kind of like animated robot E.T., but it still feels original by playing with time period and new themes.
If I have to be a nit-pick, then the worst part of this movie is the villain. He is just a little too evil. He literally doesn’t care about straight up murdering a child and then blowing up and entire town just to get his point across. He threatens and then chloroforms a nine-year-old boy. Regardless, he symbolizes the trigger-happy military that the world feared most in this Cold War environment, and so I find his over-the-top persona is justified in context.
The Iron Giant is one of those sometimes forgotten canons of early animated non-Disney films, much like I feel Anastasia and Balto were. This film was as staple in my childhood and I am so happy I gave it a re-watch as an adult. I picked up on so much more humor and symbolism that I just didn’t notice as a kid. Sure there are some sillier aspects that I liked a lot more as child, but the heart, the story, and the commentary carry over into my adulthood. This movie is a great watch for kids and parents alike and I never knew how much I missed it.
Amy’s Recommendation: 9.5/10