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When Sputnik orbits Earth, October 1957,
There’s a giant metal visitor that plummets from the heavens.
When it scares a screwy fisherman, the man warns Rockwell, Maine,
An alien’s invaded, but they think he’s gone insane.
But Hogarth Hughes, a spunky lad whose mother’s working late,
Goes out that night and finds the giant in a sorry state.
Young Hogarth saves him from the wires of a power station,
And soon he finds he’s earned the giant’s love and admiration.
Once Hogarth brings him home so he won’t wander through the wood,
He teaches him of Superman and how he should be good.
Meanwhile, one Kent Mansley, who is with the government,
Suspects that something big’s around, which he must now prevent.
He tracks the robot to the house of Hogarth and his mom
And even rents a room there. Hogarth’s disgruntled but calm.
The giant must eat metal from the junkyard’s Dean McCoppin,
Who’s quite dismayed when Hogarth and his giant robot drop in.
While Mansley lets his paranoia fuel his panicked search,
He finds a photo Hogarth took that leaves them in a lurch.
Kent gets the Army there at once, but Hogarth is too smart.
Both he and Dean disguise the giant as some junkyard art.
When Mansley’s shamed, Hogarth then plays and aims his small toy gun;
This makes the giant shoot a beam that’s more deadly than fun.
The giant flees and soon is being shot by Army tanks.
He tries to save his human boy but crashes in snow banks.
When he’s afraid that Hogarth’s dead, the giant goes berserk.
It goes into attacking mode; man’s weapons will not work.
But Hogarth lives and tells his friend he has the right to choose
To not destroy; the giant heeds the tiny Hogarth Hughes.
But Mansley still is paranoid and orders down a nuke,
And yet the bomb will kill them all; he earns a harsh rebuke.
The giant flies into the bomb as all the people tremble.
Though Hogarth’s sad to see him go, he may yet reassemble.

The Iron Giant is a science fiction animated film that also works well as a period piece, presenting the paranoia and fear of the Cold War era in a way kids can understand. Honestly, most of those details flew over my head when I first saw it because I was too busy watching the awesome giant robot that every young boy would love to have. The giant is surprisingly likable as a character, and his climactic sacrifice and survival are actually quite affecting.

The film’s storyline shares many aspects with Spielberg’s E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial: boy finds alien creature, befriends and hides said creature from parent, government comes looking for it, and creature dies but doesn’t. Yet, while E.T. was basically helpless and at the mercy of overly curious scientists, the iron giant is a fifty-foot-tall menace that the Army assumes is there to level towns and such. This policy of shoot-first-ask-questions-later is irritating but understandable, considering the era involved, with the Russians having just beaten the U.S. to space with Sputnik.

While the animation is not nearly Disney quality, it is serviceable to the story and doesn’t detract much from it since the plot and characters are more important. The CGI giant is mixed nicely with the hand-drawn people and backgrounds, but my VC found the animation distracting. There’s also some very funny parts, such as Hogarth’s reaction to coffee; this helps to make the film more kid-friendly since it does tackle some more adult concepts. After all, a child is interrogated and drugged by a government agent, and the threat of a nuclear holocaust is made very real in the finale. (Wouldn’t there be some effects from an atomic bomb exploding in the atmosphere, though?) Plus, some repeated minor language and crudity earned The Iron Giant a PG rating, which my mom was wary of when it first came out.

It doesn’t have the magic of E.T., and I don’t appreciate the oft-repeated falsity that “guns kill” (people do), but it’s an enjoyable romp, intentionally reminiscent of 1950s alien films, with endearing characters and a great lesson of choosing one’s own purpose.

Best line: (Mansley, as Hogarth is grunting in the bathroom trying to hide the giant’s separated hand) “You know, this sort of thing is why it’s important to always chew your food.”

Artistry: 5
Characters/Actors: 7
Entertainment: 6
Visual Effects: 6
Originality: 5
Watchability: 6
Other (mild language and anti-gun message): -4
TOTAL: 31 out of 60

Next: #294: Apollo 13

© 2014 S. G. Liput