The Iron Giant

The Iron Giant

****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Moving away from Walt's way of doing things, you catch a glimpse of a world without saccharine song cycles. The Iron Giant, loosely based on Ted Hughes' children's story, is from Bugs Bunny's burrow, Warner Bros, under the eye of Brad Bird, who works fast on tight schedules with a team of young animators. Their enthusiasm shapes the movie and keeps sentiment on a shorter rein than E.T.

For once, Americanisation has no ill affects. The changes may be fundamental, but they are not crass, and new characters, such as Kent Mansley, the cleancut government agent, are welcome.

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Hogarth (brilliantly voiced by 12-year-old Eli Marienthal) is an imaginative kid who lives with his mom (v.o. Jennifer Aniston) in a homestead close to Rockwell, Maine, in the late Fifties, when the Cold War and men-from-Mars were hot topics. One day, he hears a fisherman talk of a robot-like figure that fell from the sky into the ocean. Later, he discovers that the TV aerial has been eaten and chunks taken out of a tractor. Armed with his trusty airgun, he goes looking in the dark forest. The giant is huge and metallic. When it runs, the earth shakes. Hogarth saves its strange alien life, when it becomes entangled in electric pylons, after which they become inseparable.

Hiding something as big as the Statue of Liberty takes more resources than Hogarth can muster and so an art student/scrap metal merchant (Harry Connick Jr on vocals) is cajoled into providing room and board. Meanwhile, the army gets wind it and Mansley (v.o. Christopher McDonald), in his city suit and trilby, is sent to spy out the land.

The film works on almost every level, particularly its central relationship. The animators, scriptwriter (Tim McCanlies) and Vin Diesel, who creates a mode of speech for the giant, have succeeded in giving the massive Meccano model a heart and soul, without resorting to those special Spielberg moments. Hogarth deserves credit, too. He is a self-sufficient, unspoilt kid, who never gets on your nerves because his generous spirit shines and there isn't a deceitful bone in his body.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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A boy forms a bond with an alien giant.
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Director: Brad Bird

Writer: Tim McCanlies

Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr., Vin Diesel, James Gammon, Cloris Leachman, Christopher McDonald, John Mahoney, Eli Marienthal, M. Emmet Walsh, Mary Kay Bergman, Ollie Johnston

Year: 1999

Runtime: 86 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: US

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