The Iron Giant
Reviewed by: David Peterson
Better than Average
Hogarth Hughes (voiced by Eli Marienthal) is a nine year old boy living in the small town of Rockwell during 1957. The cold war is raging, the threat of “the bomb” is ever present, and communist plots loom ominously around every corner. When a local fisherman comes to town with an amazing tale of a huge metal man that fell from the sky, the mystery and temptation for adventure is too great.
While Mom (voiced by Jennifer Anniston) is working late, Hogarth decides to sneak into the woods and track down the metal man for himself. But he finds a bit more than he bargained for: a 50-foot tall Iron Giant that consumes metal like Twinkies! Thus the adventure begins.
Of course, the giant robot befriends Hogarth and we get to watch as their friendship develops. Hogarth and the Iron Giant (voiced by Vin Diesel) also make friends with the town beatnik, Dean (voiced by Harry Connick Jr.), who also happens to own a huge scrap metal junk yard, that serves nicely as a hide-out for Hogarth’s new friend.
Of course, there is a “bad guy” in the form of a government agent, Kent Mansley (voiced by Christopher McDonald), who comes to town investigating rumors of a giant robot who eats everything metal (including the agent’s car!). The agent is the typical caricature of the overzealous, paranoid G-man. But he’s not “evil” like many of the characters in recent children’s movies. And his bumbling attempts to get Hogarth to “come clean” provides some of the lighter moments of the film.
After the military gets involved in a attempt to destroy “the monster,” a series of surprises about Hogarth’s new friend come to light and some serious action scenes ensue. But the true, kind-hearted nature of the Iron Giant is discovered too late—the raving agent has ordered a submarine to launch the neutron bomb on Rockwell! Will the town be destroyed? Will the Iron Giant save the day?
Though there are certain predictable plot elements, “The Iron Giant” manages to be enjoyable film nonetheless. There are some great moments of humor (like the agent getting his head slammed in the bathroom door and the robot’s dive into the lake) and more serious reflection (like the talk of souls which live forever and never die) that add depth and character to this animated feature. The style of the animation is an interesting combination of “old style” cartoons and 3-D animation. In general, the detail and quality of the animation are excellent.
The film contains a few instances of minor cursing (hell, damn, etc.). It also contains a brief scene I found objectionable where a prayer is turned into an excuse to get some cheap laughs, all at the expense of God’s honor and the dignity of prayer. Overall, however, this is a decent and worthwhile film. My son loved it. And, though I’m not big on trying to find the “spiritual lesson” in secular entertainment, the ending of the film did provide my son and I with a great opportunity to discuss the biblical principle of giving one’s life for a friend (John 15:13); especially as it related to the sacrifice of our Lord.
If you like animated features and enjoy some adventure with a good “moral to the story,” go see “The Iron Giant”.
Year of Release—1999
Just few brief clarifications based on the comments from Mr. Joe Foster: