THE IRON GIANT
Directed by Brad Bird, The Iron Giant takes place in 1957 just
after the launch of Sputnik. As the Soviet satellite orbits the Earth, an
unidentified object crashes into the Atlantic Ocean near Rockwell, Maine.
A local fisherman with a drinking habit phones the government, though his
story is considered suspect by his friends. Meanwhile, the creature is discovered
by a young boy named Hogarth Hughes (voice of Eli Marienthal). Finding the
100-foot giant struggling in some power lines at the town's electric plant,
the boy saves it from electrocution by shutting off the juice. And so a
friendship is born.
Soon a man from the governmment appears to investigate a recent call.
Chief Inspector Kent Mansley (Christopher McDonald) is a rabid anti-Communist
who spouts "red scare" dogma at the slightest provocation. Hogarth
doesn't trust Mansley from the start, but his mother Annie (Jennifer Aniston)
shares no such feeling. She rents out the spare room to the G-man, who senses
that Hogarth has something to hide. While he attempts to trail the boy,
Hogarth has clandestine meetings in the woods with his new pet, teaching
him some English and several principles of Earthly philosophy boiled down
to simple phrases, such as "guns kill" and "souls don't die."
Hogarth finds a friend in beatnik artist Dean McCoppin (Harry Connick
Jr.), who runs a scrapyard and uses the discarded metal to create junk sculptures.
Dean is willing to accept the gentle giant, but doesn't appreciate the huge
bites taken out of his prized possessions. As Inspector Mansley closes in
with plans to destroy the giant (which he suspects to be of Soviet origin),
Hogarth and Dean must try to protect it. But the robot is soon on the run
from the U.S. military, and must choose between his own existence and that
of his little friend.
There's no question that The Iron Giant lacks the slick production design and marketing strategies of Disney, Dreamworks, et al. But a great lesson it teaches is that quality beats quanitity when it comes to dollars spent. Warner Bros. and the film's producers (among them Pete Townshend of The Who) see the value of finding a good script and quality talent. The story is a heartwarming treatise on the power of love over prejudice, and the actors all do a fine job, particularly Marienthal. Though it is really the little guy, The Iron Giant fairly towers over its competitors. ****½
See Current Reviews
See FilmQuips Archive