Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Movie #293: The Iron Giant

The Iron Giant is an animated movie based on a novel by Ted Hughes and directed by Brad Bird, starring Eli Marienthal, Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Aniston, Christopher McDonald, and Vin Diesel. It's also one of those "you don't have a soul if you don't cry" movies.

Hogarth Hughes (Marienthal) is a smart, kind of nerdy kid with an active imagination. His mom (Aniston) works at a diner, and tries to cope with the loss of her husband (he was a pilot in WWII, though this isn't ever stated directly; it's called out with some nicely subtle details) and her hyper young son. And the one day, a huge robot crash-lands in the ocean near their coastal Maine town, stomps up on land, and nearly electrocutes itself trying to eat the power station. Hogarth saves it, and later befriends it and teaches it to talk (and it's voiced by Vin Diesel, so).

Of course, this being the paranoid-ass 50s, the government sends an agent to check this out. Said agent, Kent (McDonald) is looking to make his bones and justify his job, and chases after Hogarth and his beatnik buddy who owns a scrap yard (Connick Jr.). The Giant finally exposes itself (not like that) when it tromps into town and saves a couple of young boys, and the army rolls in to destroy it.

Trouble is, the robot is a weapon of war, and it responds to threat. It manages to keep its impulses mostly under control until Hogarth is injured. Thinking him dead, it flips out and starts laying waste, and the army calls in a nuclear strike (well, really, Kent does because he's an idiot). The Giant, realizing that it can stop the bomb, flies off to do that, Hogarth's and Dean's lesson about humanity ("You are who you choose to be") echoing in his head. His final word before hitting the bomb, and, presumably, being blown to hell, is his choice: "Superman."

I literally get teary during that part of the movie (and writing about it GODDAMMIT) because for the Giant, he is making a choice (one that Superman doesn't actually have to make because a nuke for him would be "yah whatever yawn LOL"). The Giant might be able to reform after the blast, but he has no way to know that. He chooses, after things like "good guys" and "bad guys" and "guns" and "souls" are explained to him, in beautifully childlike language (from Hogarth), to be the good guy, regardless of what it will cost him.

I love that the Giant's origins are never explained in the movie. He doesn't remember them. There was a dream sequence (cut for funding, sadly) that hinted at his origins more directly, but even then no one ever comes out and says "he was sent here to conquer!" It doesn't matter why (or if) he was sent here; he wakes up with no understanding of who or what he is, only basic urges, but also a yearning to belong and understand.

I also like that, with the exception of Kent (who is an idiot, not a patriot), the adults in the movie are willing to learn and listen. Yeah, the army's first response is to shoot, but given the paranoia of the time (space race, Red Scare) it's understandable. But when Hogarth and Dean talk to them, they listen like educated, empathetic human beings, rather than goons, and that just serves to highlight the Giant's sacrifice (and Kent's stupidity).

All in all, this is a really wonderful movie and perfect Promethean inspiration in a lot of ways.

My Grade: A
Rewatch value: High

Next up: Iron Man