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Home > Movies > 31 Monsters #30: The Iron Giant

31 Monsters #30: The Iron Giant

October 30th, 2009

“But…but, Dave!” I hear you sputter. “The Iron Giant isn’t a monster!” Au contraire, mon frere. That’s my douchey way of saying that in the Halloween ecosystem, the Iron Giant fills the ecological niche of Misunderstood Monster. You know the type: too big for his own well-being, basically good-hearted until you cross him.

The Iron Giant was a 1999 animated film directed by Brad Bird, better known for his Pixar productions: The Incredibles and Ratatouille. It told the familiar tale of boy meets giant robot, military shoots giant robot, giant robot proves his good intentions, dies anyway.

While it’s since been recognized as a modern classic, it was a box-office flop. Fans like to believe that this was because Warner Bros. bungled its marketing, but I disagree. It was released at a time when Disney still completely dominated the animated feature film genre. It didn’t feature musical numbers, cute sidekicks or crowd-pleasing pop cultural references. Plus, it had a science-fiction theme; the animation field is littered with the bloated corpses of allegedly boy-friendly sci-fi adventures such as Treasure Planet, Atlantis: The Lost Empire and Titan A.E.

Based loosely on a fantasy novel by¬†Ted Hughes entitled¬†The Iron Man, it was reconceptualized as a ’50s sci-fi pastiche. The Iron Giant fell to earth from outer space, clonking his noggin on impact. Unable to recall his purpose, he wound up befriending a young boy with the highly implausible name of “Hogarth.” The kid did his best to hide the huge robot from a paranoid U.S. government agent, and also to instill the mechanical man with an understanding that he had the ability to choose who he would become.

Naturally, it all went pear-shaped by the third act, with the Iron Giant revealed to a frightened military. What I find interesting is that while the film obviously sided with the monster, it also made clear that the government’s distrust wasn’t entirely unjustified. I suspect that without that little dent in his metal melon, the giant would’ve happily burned Hogarth to ashes and gone on to conquer the world.

When Hogarth appeared dead, the Iron Giant shifted into offensive mode, and what a mode it was!

Hey, nice arm cannon! What about the other one?

Oh. Sweeeet! What else you got?

Okay, that’s a little freaky. Kind of a War of the Worlds thing you got goin’ there.

I’m not even sure what that spinny disc thing is.

The redonkulous chestzooka might be overkill there, mate.

Alright, don’t get mad. You’re a fine robot monster, you are.

Now, of course, the Iron Giant was ultimately given the chance to prove he was not a gun. (Or rather, not just a gun. ‘Cause, looking at the above, I’d say he was pretty clearly one.) And if you can get past his “Superman” moment (you’ll know it when you see it) without fighting back tears, then I want nothing to do with you.

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