Mything in Action

The story's a tad simpy but the character animation and action interludes are so matter-of-fact in their brilliance that it scarcely matters. Set pieces range from a storm at sea and a pursuit sequence involving air force bombers to a mess precipitated in the local diner by Hogarth's pet squirrel and a kindred sequence with a giant robot hand scuttling through the boy's house. With an insatiable appetite for scrap metal and an uncanny ability to reassemble his scattered parts, the giant himself is a sturdy comic conception as well as a fully realized icon—ratchet jaw and headlight eyes are encased in a bullet-shaped cranium, an imposing torso pivoting on a Tinker Toy construction. (That only the giant appears to be computer- animated is among the many unobtrusive touches that make The Iron Giant so satisfyingly coherent.)

If Bird appears to have logged a few hours studying Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2 Century and the Superman cartoons of the early 1940s (not to mention King Kong and Ultra Man, among other Japanese robots), The Iron Giant is in no way derivative. Incredibly, it suggests a cartoon remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still that might have been made in 1957—a sensation promoted by the Forbidden Planet poster that Hogarth has in his bedroom, the cleverly incorporated period ad he watches on TV, and the invented "duck and cover" civil defense cartoon shown in school. The characters, angular rather than cuddly, are set against fully rendered backgrounds. At once stylized and detailed, jazzy and classic, the animation picks up where Warner and Disney left off when they cut back their theatrical cartoon units in the mid '50s.


Directed by Andrew Fleming
Written by Fleming and Sheryl Longin
A Columbia Pictures release

The Iron Giant
Directed by Brad Bird
Written by Bird and Tim McCanlies, from the novel The Iron Man by Ted Hughes
A Warner Bros. release

The music doesn't flood the script with sentiment or canned nostalgia, and the movie is even restrained in its toilet jokes. Remarkably unassuming, genuinely playful, and superbly executed, The Iron Giant towers over the cartoon landscape.

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