You’re made of metal, but you have feelings, and you think about things and that means you have a soul. And souls don’t die.
Only saw this movie once and it was years ago, but my memories were very positive. Well, the movie is even better than I remembered. In fact, it’s damn near perfect. It’s the tale of a giant robot from space and a young boy and the relationship they form in 1957 Maine. And I think that it really just succeeds magnificently in every way. There are long sections of the film that are hilariously funny, like a nighttime visit to a scrapyard. At other times, the film really does capture a kind of childlike awe; the first few times we see the giant, we’re genuinely stopped in our tracks and blown away. The first moment, in a violent storm at sea, is a chill-bump moment as is Hogarth’s first encounter with those eyes blinking to life in the tree line. Later, the film becomes suspenseful and then deeply sad and then it manages to end with a message of hope. Ah, yes, the beautiful message of the film . . . a message that we can choose who we are, who we want to be. Like the rest of this movie, it could easily come across as cheesy or trite, but the film’s sincerity sells it absolutely and the film is inspirational without being in the least bit hackneyed. The animation is really wonderful as well. The body language of the giant makes him actually come to life as a character (and Vin Diesel’s wonderful voice work, though minimal, is fantastic; it’s one of Diesel’s best performances, actually) and the CGI interacts perfectly with the gorgeous hand-drawn settings and other characters. It’s an early triumph for Bird and still right up there with the work he’s done since 1999. The film just holds up perfectly and is deeply emotionally moving. Sixteen years after its release, it’s even better than it was then, I think, now that animated films have digressed even further into sterile CGI, lame humor and freneticism in place of real emotion. There’s Disney to contend with and Pixar’s golden age (plus this year’s amazing Inside Out) remains breathtaking and then there’s Studio Ghibli, but The Iron Giant is still a strong contender for best animated film ever made. If, at least, you leave it out of the conversation, you deserve nothing but ridicule. It’s a masterpiece, full stop. 4 stars.
tl;dr – imaginative, emotionally resonant tale of a giant robot and the boy that befriends him is character driven, gorgeously animated and an absolute masterpiece. 4 stars.