The Iron Giant is an animated film directed by Brad Bird and based on the Ted Hughes book The Iron Man. Loosely stylistically based on Hayao Miyazaki’s ˜Clear Line Technique’ it avoids the similarities of a Disney film by being a proper, realistically drawn film. In total it cost $70m to make and only took $23m at the box office, making it a clear commercial flop. However, a growing appreciation of the film since its release for home entertainment has seen it become a rather odd ˜cult classic animation’ that often gets shown over holiday periods on television.
In 1957 a large iron giant (Vin Diesel) crash-lands in Maine, USA. A young boy named Hogarth (Eli Marienthal) follows the path of destruction left by the iron giant and discovers the huge, hulking machine eating power lines. He befriends it and takes it back to his house and hides him in his barn while around the area, other people are searching for him. A series of setbacks befall their friendship, but both Hogarth and the iron giant remain together even while the Government attempts to track them down and take control of the robot.
The book from which The Iron Giant is based, is a popular childhood classic that adorns the library shelves of many schools. It is a well-worn story, but one that with the help of Brad Bird’s keen directorial eye, appears new and innovative. Setting the action in the 1950s is a masterstroke for instance, as the world was growing ever more paranoid about the threat of nuclear war, which is the perfect situation to throw in a Frankenstein-styled giant mechanical robot.
The Iron Giant is tinged with the sort of melancholy that Pixar have branched into in recent years. If you imagine the opening scenes in Up or the presentation of the dead Earth in WALL-E you will be in about the right ball-park. In reality though it borrows its tone and atmosphere from the British nuclear threat film When the Wind Blows. Even if you don’t know the story, Bird does an excellent job in foreshadowing future events so that when the time comes, the audience is prepared for the harrowing twist/reveal/key moment.
The Iron Giant stands tall as one of the most pathos-heavy, melancholy masterpieces in animation. Criminally overlooked upon release, it sits rightfully among its peers from Disney, Ghibli and Pixar.