Movie Review

The Iron Giant

MPAA Rating: PG for fantasy action and mild language.

Reviewed by: David Peterson
CONTRIBUTOR

Better than Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Children
Genre:
Animation
Length:
86 min.
PG

Starring: voices of Jennifer Aniston, Eli Marienthal, Harry Connick Jr., Vin Diesel, Christopher McDonald, James Gammon, Cloris Leachman, John Mahoney, M. Emmet Walsh | Director: Brad Bird

copyrighted by distributor
copyrighted by distributor
copyrighted by distributor

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

Viewer Comments
I agree entirely with the comments of “Leo, age 50” and “E. Dillard, age 35.” My wife and I felt it necessary to leave the theater with our three pre-teenage children after seeing only about one-third of the movie.

We, too, felt that some degree of “damage-control” with our children was in order. I have found it disturbing that this movie received mostly good reviews from Christian Web sites that review movies. In addition to the bothersome scenes referred to by “Leo” and “E. Dillard,” I also found objectionable the symbol on the robe of the guy who lived at the junkyard. Is this not a symbol for a form of Eastern mysticism/religion?

Wasn’t the “junkyard guy” portrayed as one of the “good guys” in the story, thus portraying his form of spirituality as a good thing? Certainly the filmmakers have a right to favor any form of spirituality they wish, but as a Christian I found this aspect of the movie offensive.

And as a parent I felt deceived because a movie that had been portrayed as “safe” for young minds was not, at least from a Christian perspective.

My final comment regarding this film is that the quality of the animation/artwork is not even close to “industry standard” (compare, for example, to “Beauty and the Beast” or “An American Tail”). I would not recommend this movie to children under any circumstances. Other filmmakers might wish to view it as an example of how NOT to make a children’s animated film. My Ratings: [1/1½]
—Robert, age 45
“The most thoughtful animated film in a long time”… Cartoons aren’t just for kids anymore. I, for one, welcome the change. As an animation enthusiast, I’m glad to see Hollywood make cartoons for older children and adults. As for language, it has as much as any PG film. I think that children, teenagers, and adults looking for a great film should go see this one! My Ratings: [3½/4½]
—Katherine, age 18
My eight year old son, my husband and I went to see this movie. My son found the previews to be very interesting and we found them to be acceptable for his viewing. We were extremely dissapointed when the profanity began. What’s up with it? This was an animated film geared to children, and it would have been okay if they had of left the profanity at home! The three of us walked out of the theatre after about a 45 minutes into the movie, wasting $17.50. I do not recommend this movie.
—D. Turner, age 35
I saw the movie the day it opened. At first I thought it would be a small no-name terrible film. Then I saw all of the spectacular reviews, and that arose my interest in the film. But the film turned out just as I thought it would be. I couldn’t find anything to like in this movie, and as a Christian, the scene where Hogarth makes fun of prayer in a round about way was quite disturbing. I really can’t tell why people like this film.
—Dan, age 16
This movie was spectacular! I saw it by myself in a theatre full of toddlers and young parents, but I shed more tears than everyone combined! It’s a return to innocence and childhood dreams of being a hero. As a comic book fundamentalist, I loved the references to Superman, and could relate better than anyone to the childlike desire of the giant to be the good guy instead of the villain.

The person of the giant reflected all of our desires as Christians to be like Christ, squashed by our sin nature that can often turn us into “guns”. From a Christian perspective: Don’t take young kids to this, as it just doesn’t seem to have been taylored for them as well as it might have been. From a Comic book collecting sci-fi loving 21 year old who was taught never to cry in public: See it, especially if you think you are too old to ever be a kid again. Rediscover innocence in the heart of “The Iron Giant.
—Paeter Frandsen, age 21
I loved the movie. Four of us went, ages 5 to 74. Everyone had a great time. It was FUNNY!! It was sad. It was Fantastic! I would recommend everyone to go see it. I can’t wait for it to come out on video so I can buy it.
—R C Gorczyca, age 35
I saw this movie with my two brothers, and I think it was really fun. For the first time in a long time we were treated to a movie where there were no demons (like in Anastasia), the bad guy was just a bad guy and not some crazed meglo-maniac, and there was CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT. I haven’t seen that many recent films that have really good characters that you care about by the time the whole thing’s over with. Yeah, there were some bad words that could have been excluded. Yeah, there was that prayer scene (that, incidently, had my brothers and I rolling in the floor). But it was basically a good cartoon, which is saying a lot, considering Hollywood these days. I think if you’re a teenager interested in fantasy-type robots and some really ROCKING weaponry and explosions, see this movie.
—K. M. Hollar, age 17
A great kidz film! Though not perfect, Iron Giant delivers fine animation with a story that stirs the imagination. The moral message is also excellent: searching your heart and doing what is right. All the guns and shooting make Iron Giant more geared towards young boys. And with the offenses that others have noted, this sure isn’t Veggie Tales. The themes are also quite heavy, and some adult/child follow-up will probably be needed. I wouldn’t personally take really young children to it. But my nephew thought it was great, and I think that this is the best children’s animation film since Toy Story.
—Todd Adams, age 32
A giant battle droid from another planet gets its circuits scrambled by high voltage and becomes a kid’s best friend. Makings of an enjoyable tale. I took my 9 year old daughter and she seemed to like the movie. I enjoyed the first part; thought at last we were getting a classic entertaining kids movie. I liked it less as the plot unfolded.

Why did they have to put profanity and coarse humor in an animated kid’s flick (that alone soured the experience for me—had to talk to my daughter about it afterwards)? Evil: FBI, guns, military and reactionaries. Good: lying to mom and a beat, junkyard scrap artists. Lesson: I have to preview every movie, “family” or otherwise, before I take my daughter to it. Can’t trust Hollywood.
—Leo, age 50
I am not a christian but a serious devotee of the cinema. Thus, I visit this site for while I do not see eye to eye spritually with Christianity, I have a great deal of the moral and ethical foundations that they/you purport to herald. I will not let anyone besmirch the name of this movie—THE BEST ANIMATED FILM IN THE LAST DECADE—over simple-minded religous debate.

Why is it that the reviewer of this film can choose not to look for spiritual enlightenment in secular entertainment, but it is easy and acceptable to find matters offensive to Christianity in EVERYTHING? Was hogarth to tell the giant to be like Christ, and not like Superman?… Everyone wants to be Superman when they are little. He’s secular. And so’s the big metal guy.

In closing this movie is FAILING at the box office—I implore you to take your older children (10 +) who have a firmer grasp in whatever spiritual belief you may subscribe to—children at an age when they are beginning to be turned off from animation.
—Joe Foster, age 20, non-Christian

Just few brief clarifications based on the comments from Mr. Joe Foster:

First, thanks for taking the time to visit this site, I hope you find the reviews helpful; or at least interesting.

Second, I agree that Iron Giant is a great animated film. That’s why I encouraged peopel to see it if they like such things.

Third, my comment about looking for “spiritual lessons” in secular entertainment was simply meant to reflect my own personal convictions regarding the source of instruction and information about God, etc. which I believe to be found in the Holy Scriptures.

Also, I do not believe that movies like the Iron Giant are made in order to teach us religious values—they’re entertainment. But my comment was NOT intended to say that there can be no beneficial insights or interesting points made in secular entertainment. I have seen many movies which provided useful and even helpful thoughts and emphases—even though they were secular. (Note, in fact, in my review, that I said the movie offered a “good moral to the story”…)

Fourth, I agree that Christians spend way too much time complaining and finding fault with everything under the sun. Of course, we must be careful and discerning and seek to live lives which are pleasing to God and in accordance with His Word, but I believe the constant “witch hunt” mentality often associated with fundamentalism is itself displeasing to God. (I’m not a fundamentalist, by the way…)

Fifth, Hogarth’s reference to Superman was completely fine with me; I like Superman—you know, “truth, justice, and the American way”! Bottom line: Iron Giant is a good, entertaining film which emphasizes decent moral principles.
—David Peterson, age 33

I could not disagree more with the comments of E. Dillard. This was a great animated film! I can understand why some will be offended by the smattering of curse words (I was not), but the rest is beyond me. The family prayed before each meal. During the child’s prayer, he sees a part of the giant approaching the mother from behind.

He cries out to tell the giant to stop, but then has to incorporate his cries into his prayer to keep his mother from suspecting that there’s anything behind her. It’s one of the funniest parts of the movie! The part about the soul “living forever” was just whimsy.

The film is a fantasy, of course. The boy was trying to reconcile his belief in the eternal soul with the apparent “personhood” of the metalic giant. It was interesting, and provided me and my kids with some neat opportunities for conversation on the matter. That anyone would believe that robot’s repairing himself at the end (making way for a sequel, no doubt) is some kind of analogy to Jesus Christ is really a stretch. I give the movie a thumbs up.
—Timothy Blaisdell, age 35
In my opinion, this is the best animated movie since Toy Story. Well, except for maybe Larry Boy. There are some negatives, in particular a smattering of un-needed profanities. I don’t want to argue that point. If any level offends you, don’t go see it (or most movies these days). As to the prayer scene, personally I find a dinner prayer said out of duty more offensive than this. Hogarths mother asks him to pray. He doesn’t say “ah, mom do I have to.”

He just starts praying. Out of the corner of his eye he’s sees something that startles him, yells at it reflexively, then tries to cover up by making up a continuation of the prayer. This continues for a short bit. The real problem here is that he’s having to continue the lie’s he’s told his mom to try to cover up the presence of the Robot. (i.e. the Fib gets bigger and bigger).

Early in the movie, a lot of the humor does depend on these attempts to keep the robot a secret. But I disagree with others that these lies have no consequensces. Much of the danger the boy and his whole town ends up in may have been avoided if he had told his mom the truth (which, by the way, he did try to do right at first, but she doesn’t believe him). That’s just one of several positive moral messages from this film. But it WAS missing Larry Boy to the rescue…
—Phil Rose, age 42
…The movie makers give the idea that if the robot could think and feel, it then has a soul. The robot was created by an alien intelligence; only God can create a soul. The movie had way too many “damns, hells,” and even the words, “blow it out your butt.”

The laughter at the expense of the prayer at dinner time was especially offensive. The little boy repeatly lied to his mother and suffered no punishment or consequences for his lying. At the end of the movie the robot is in the beginning processes of being “resurrected.” Is he suppose to be an analogy for Jesus? If it is I find it to be a mockery of our faith. I found that I had to do great damage control after the movie and explain to my children what God really wants in our lives and not what this movie portrays.
—E. Dillard, age 35