When you get into a conversation about your lack of knowledge of animated films with an incredibly attractive and cinematically inclined man, and then this man not only recommends The Iron Giant to you but actually lends you the DVD, you damn well better like it. True story. And I did like it.
Actually, I loved it. I rarely watch animated films (and TV shows, for that matter), because I’ve always been drawn to real-life storytelling. But I’m glad I entrusted him with my 2D naivete, because The Iron Giant is a magnificent, sweet tale. It might also be the only Jennifer Aniston role I’ve ever liked.
The Iron Giant, despite its colorful drawings and all-around aura of child-like wonder, isn’t exactly a kids-only film. It’s more like a movie for adults with simplified language and no acting. I read some reviews of the film, and one in particular stood out to me. To paraphrase the reviewer, it’s easy to forget that The Iron Giant is animated, because when you’re watching, you feel so enveloped in the story that the characters seem like real, live people. That’s the mark of animated mastery for sure.
This film is not without its moments of sharp humor, but it’s mostly a somber allegory, for lack of a better phrase, bigger things. The giant, voiced kind of hilariously by Vin “Way Past His 15 Minutes” Diesel, represents all sorts of things. To most people, I would think it symbolizes communism, weapons, homeland threats, that sort of thing. But I also think it embodies the unknown, the too-big-to-cope-with, the misunderstood. The giant is a machine with feelings, which is inherently contradictory, but then again, so is a government. (And so is Superman, which is probably why the giant attached himself to the superhero notion.) Humanity seeps into everything, even if everything is made of metal. The little boy, Hogarth, who befriends and understands the giant, possesses more depth and foresight in his still-growing mind than the rest of the adults around him. Probably not realistic, but heartwarming nonetheless. From the mouths of babes doesn’t even begin to describe it.
The voices, besides Diesel’s and Aniston’s, are fantastic. Harry Connick Jr. is the baritone behind the beatnik, and John Mahoney is the gruff general, just to name a few. They convey rich emotions behind their artful facades, which I can only imagine is more difficult than it looks.
I’m honestly not sure when I’d let a kid watch this movie. It addresses death, mortality, and sacrifice with incredible poignancy, but also brute force, and that’s not the easiest way to go about it for all youngsters, though I applaud the terse storytelling. I do think that everyone should see this movie, though, when the time is right. It’s got all the right amount of sap, which is to say none, so you don’t feel bad about grinning like an idiot when the whole thing is over.
I wonder what he’ll recommend next…