For the longest of times, Disney has dominated the animation genre... and it still does. But that doesn't mean it makes the best cartoons. The Iron Giant is one of the most original, heartwarming, and funny cartoons I have ever seen, and I'm a teenager. I really enjoyed this film. I loved just about everything. I liked the robot's childlike expressions, I liked the strange but fluid animations, and I liked the story. I like the jokes, too.
The only thing I didn't like was the little kid (Eli Marienthal), the main character. He starts off great but suddenly turns into a loud-mouthed show-off almost unexpectedly, and from there on out you know you're going to be wishing you could mute out just one character's voice. Seriously, his character seems to change right in the middle of the film. On the other hand, The Iron Giant has a great character in Dean (Harry Conick, Jr.), the scrap yard artist who's sarcasm flies throughout the film. Even the way he walks fits his character; in one scene, the kid asks him a question and he just walks away and shuts the door. In another, he sitting calmly in a chair and watches as a tidal wave approaches his position. It's classic.
The best part about The Iron Giant is that it isn't trying to be a cartoon. In fact, almost everything about it suggests that the script was written to be a live-action kid's movie. The jokes and dialogue seem like something out of a sitcom, and not necessarily aimed at children, although children will find them amusing. Furthermore, the direction also makes The Iron Giant seem as if it is a beautifully-constructed storyboard for a live-action film, as several of the shots could be made classics if done with real actors. One of the best shots is where the boy is driving away in the car and the robot is silhouetted against a dark backdrop of trees, and its eyes are glowing in almost a creepy sense.
The story is pretty clever, although again it isn't necessarily one made for the children. It's set in 1957 during the time of Sputnik (Sputnik even appears in the opening scene) and a lot of the story deals with the Government trying to find the robot, and most of the kids won't understand anything about the Cold War. Oh well. Near the end, there's a lot of action where the Army is shooting rockets at the robot and its shooting lasers back. At the same time, this movie has a lot of similarities to those "boy and his dog" type flicks, as the robot has feelings and walks off when sad, and plays around like a dog would. This is the part that really appeals to the younger kids, and this side of the film shines throughout.
Personally, I think parents will find this movie more entertaining and thoughtful than the kids, but the kids should enjoy it as well. It is a shame that The Iron Giant failed at theaters because this is one of the best cartoons to hit theaters. Ever.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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