Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Iron Giant (1999)

If you'll all allow me, I would like to indulge a bit in something I know brings me joy. Why? Well, other than it prominently being the story of a giant metal monster who befriends a young boy, I find that it's always good to watch something really good before you go to cover something that is very much the opposite of it. Yes, after many requests and questions on the subject, I do actually count giant robots as fair game when it comes to Kaijuly. They're giant, they destroy things, they often have sentience, who am I to get nitpicky? So yeah, I will be doing some giant robot stuff other than Pacific Rim (which was covered last year). That means I can also cover this movie that I adore.

But that doesn't mean I can't still take the piss out it just a little bit.

The Iron Giant was directed by Brad Bird, who you might recall also directed some other beloved films, namely The Incredibles and Ratatouille. He's also working hard on The Incredibles 2, which has many fans delighted and overjoyed, often at the same time. With a background heavily in animation, Bird's work here shines as a perfect example of what one can truly do with what some often discredit as "just a cartoon". Based on the 1968 novel, The Iron Man by Ted Hughes (a title that wasn't used for obvious reasons), this movie is very much a loving tribute to both childhood innocence and to the old 1950s giant monster movies that form the very foundation of what Kaijuly is all about. It's even set in that era when Cold War paranoia had people firmly in its grip, allowing for all sorts of rather questionable things to be done in the supposed defense of our country.

Roland Emmerich wasn't the only person willing to blow up the White House in order to sell their product.
But, I'm not out to discuss the politics of the past, as that is better suited for when I eventually cover something like The Golden Age or Matinee. No, I'm out to talk about the story of a boy and his robot. It's sorta like those stories of a boy and his dog, but the dog is a lot bigger and it talks and eats metal. Also, the dog won't get rabies and leave small children traumatized forever when the boy has to shoot it at the end of the movie.

You all know what I'm talking about. Don't make me say it, because I don't need Disney's lawyers barking at me.
Our tale begins with the Russian satellite Sputnik floating in orbit in 1957, which I guess is important to note as immediately afterwards a massive flaming object crashes into the Earth, meaning the Russians are clearly to blame for this! Someone get McCarthy on the phone! We're being invaded! Nah, just kidding, it's only a giant alien robot. It lands in the water off the coast of Maine and some old fisherman mistakes the robot's big glowing eye for a lighthouse light before he invariably loses his shit when he sees as second light. After crashing into it and nearly drowning, he wakes up on the rocks next to the lighthouse, almost implying he hallucinated the whole thing.

I have a sneaky suspicion he didn't actually hallucinate it though. Call it a hunch.
We then meet young Hogarth, our human child for the movie, as he rides through town on his bike to see his mom at the diner where she works. Why is he there? Well, he's one of those kids who really wants a pet. Any pet. If you showed this kid one of the spider in Eight Legged Freaks, he'd probably try to put a leash on it. And he has a box...hmmm...I wonder where this is going? So his mom agrees to look at the pet i nthe box...but the box is empty. Uh oh. Here's hoping it isn't actually a giant spider, because I don't think this town is ready for those. He looks around before finally seeing it dart under the table of the coolest guy in town, a beatnik artist named Dean. Behind Dean, the old fisherman tells the story of the giant thing he saw out on the water but everyone discards the story as the ramblings of a drunk .Dean backs him up to help the guy out, telling the kid we've gotta stick up for the "kooks". Then that squirrel the kid was chasing? Yeah, it goes right up Dean's leg into a very tender area.

He seems to be handling it pretty well, all considered.
Understandably, he decides having it in there isn't great and unzips, letting the squirrel loose as it tears through the diner, leaving a mess in its wake. In the aftermath of this, Hogarth is surprisingly not grounded but has to sit at home alone, as his mom has to work late. He spends the night watching science fiction movies while squirting whipped cream into Twinkies. You know, perfectly appropriate behaviour for an average American child. He hears a noise outside and the antenna signal goes, which leads him to climbing to the roof to check out what the problem is. The problem ends up being that there is no antenna at all, which is something that kids today have no knowledge of as they don't even use antennas.

The struggle was real. Especially when you didn't have cable.
The kid notices the path of destruction leading from his house and, being a curious kid with a lot of free time, decides to head off alone into the woods in search of the antenna eating monster. He finds the giant robot from the title eating a power plant, which results in it getting electrocuted and Hogarth deciding he feels sorry for it. So, rather than fleeing from the entire situation, he saves the Iron Giant by pulling the switch on the power plant. The robot leaves and the kid gets found by his terrified mother who though her son was abducted, because the world is actually a fairly scary place without having to bring giant things into the picture.

Oh, way to twist my words, movie!
While at school, we see Hogarth doodling the Iron Giant while the Fallout style scare film plays for the class, warning them all of the dangers of the ATOMIC HOLOCAUST! Don't they know the true dangers are the Deathclaws, Cazadors, and those skateboarding, shade-wearing, neon-colour-loving radscorpions who are simply too rad for humans to cope with?

They're so rad that Cru Jones wishes they'd hang out with him.
After he invariably gets made fun of for having a different opinion about what the old fisherman from earlier actually ran into, we see cool guy Dean towing away the tractor the Iron Giant took a bite out of, as Dean actually runs the local junk yard, and the old fisherman tells him again how he called the government which leads to Dean asking who the government would even send to look into something like a giant metal man from outer space? Fox Mulder hasn't been born yet, so it is a solid question. Apparently, the government sent Kent Mansley, who looks like every hero from old 1950s science fiction film but he's not really the hero type. No, he's more the paranoid asshole type who only cares about himself.

Not sure if he thinks he's the hero...or if he just really resembles a Futurama meme.
He interviews the workers who are cleaning up the ripped up power equipment and even suggests that it could be a giant gorilla, because that's likely. But really it's just because he's a dickhead and he's mocking the worker. That is until he gets into his car and notices it's been bitten in half. Not he's super cereal about catching whatever did all of this. The giant eats the rest of his car while he tries to get someone to see the damage and we all laugh at his misfortune, as he's an unlikable douche. Moving on to a character we like, Hogarth decides he's going to find the giant himself, bringing out some metal to lure it with and a camera to take a photo of it. It works, as it shows up to take it from him while he dozes off in the forest, and he wakes up to see it standing over him. He runs away, it slowly follows him, he runs into a branch, it sits down with him and they become friends when it shows him it remembers him saving it, despite having forgotten most everything else due to a bump on its head.

A friendship built on head trauma personally gives me a bit of a migraine.
Things seem cool, until it eats some train tracks and the kid tells him to fix them before the train wrecks. This results in the giant getting wrecked instead, but it does manage to fix the tracks just fine. Thinking he lost his new large friend, Hogarth gets a surprise when a hand shows up during dinner. He stashes the various reassembling pieces in the barn where they get to know each other better while the kid reads comics to the giant. The giant seems to dig them (especially Superman) but gets a bit uncomfortable with a monstrous robot shown in the comics. Hogarth tells him that he's what he wants to be, highlighting that free will makes us what we are, not anything else. The Iron Giant decides he wants to be Superman.

You've gotta admire someone who aims high, even if the S is a bit crooked.
As the douchey agent begins sniffing around the house, Hogarth gets Dean in on the big secret, leading the cool beatnik artist who owns a scrapyard letting the giant stay there, where he even fools everyone into thinking the giant robot monster that Agent Mansley is chasing is nothing more than an elaborate metal sculpture he made, as he makes those. The giant also learns the tragic concept of death after seeing a dead deer who was killed by some hunters, which leads to the giant hating guns. This is great, except while playing the giant sprouts some guns of his own and nearly kills Hogarth without even meaning to. After Dean saves the kid, he yells for the giant to leave but soon realizes that it was only acting defensively because of the toy gun.

When will the world learn the true menace of the toy gun?
The Iron Giant not long after ends up saving two children from death via gravity in front of a large group of onlookers, which gets the Amry's attention and results in them attacking the giant. After being hit with a missile, Hogarth is knocked out and the giant believes him dead, turning his own weapons on those who killed his friend. Agent Dickhead lies to the general, saying the giant killed the kid, convincing him to launch a nuke at it. But Hogarth wakes up, calms his giant friend down, and Mansley is shown to be the lying sack of shit we all know him to be. The general attempts to stop the missile launch but Agent Douche orders it anyway, basically dooming everyone there. He tries to run, which the giant stops in a rather amusing fashion, and then our titular hero does Superman proud and launches into the air to stop the nuke, saving everyone at the cost of his own life. But not really, as we see the last remaining piece that Hogarth was allowed to hold on to starts blinking and moving, telling him (and us) that the giant is alive and rebuilding himself in the ocean depths. Huzzah! Dean also hooks up with the kid's mom, so all's well that ends well.

He also gets a shiny statue in his honour like Superman because we thought both of them died.
This movie is beautiful. I couldn't tear it down if I tried, because what was done here is just glourious to behold. Brad Bird and his team made a tribute to old giant monster movies where the monster decided it wanted to be the hero instead, and I love that so damn much. The story really gets me, because I think all of us weird kids had that period of time where we felt alone and would really like to just have a friend who would watch out for us. A big cool awesome friend who hung on our every word. To Hogarth, that's what Iron Giant really is. It's not a monster or a threat, it's a big best buddy who he loves hanging with. I dig that immensely. And not just that, I love the characters in this movie. From Dean being the cool dude you wish you could be to the crazy hot mom who works her ass off to raise a kid who keeps bringing home strays, this movies is built just as much on the little people as it is on the giant himself.

Even Mansley, as he's just that guy you like to hate. I could kick him in the crotch all day and never tire of it.
The Iron Giant, as a film, is a pure work of art in all respects and there's a reason people still love it so much to this day. All the actors were great in their parts, bringing each character to life beautifully. And that includes Vin Diesel, who voiced the Iron Giant and helped bring the metal man to life. A lot of people hate on Diesel as an actor, but I honestly like him in more than a few of his roles and feel like he really does try his best to bring emotion into the characters he plays. This right here is the role that really lead to him getting to play Groot and it shows, because a little says a lot with both characters. It's no easy challenge to voice act and I really think he did a great job. I could hoenstly sit here and gush for paragraphs about my love for this movie and how it makes me feel joy every time I view it. I could talk about how I'd love to shake brad Bird's hand for bringing this story to life on the screen. I could even keep commenting on the amazing animation that weaves 2D and 3D into a near-seamless package. But you all know all that if you've seen the movie. And if you haven't seen it, quit wasting time and go do so. You owe it to yourself. So, until Brad Bird shows up riding on a giant robot Vin Diesel to whisk me off on an adventure, I'll be here preparing myself for something a lot less fun. Later days, bleeders.

By the way, did I mention the mother was hot? Because wow.

No comments:

Post a Comment