On August 6, 1999 it was released in cinemas The Iron Giant, one of the most beautiful – and most underrated – animated films in the history of cinema, impressing an indelible memory in the generations that have seen it and have grasped its intrinsic strength, the power of its message, or simply the beauty inherent in the friendship between a child and a robot of about fifteen meters. A film that has rightfully become an integral part of today’s pop culture, despite the results obtained at the box office: let’s retrace its history together.
The Iron Giant at the cinema
An animated film with an almost Disney style (although, by Disneyit is not) that it faces mature themes with strength and without fear, so that it can be enjoyed, almost unexpectedly, both by a young audience and by an adult and more aware one. Of the underlying political history, of the climate of a country and of the underlying feelings in the middle of the Cold War period, of the many nuances that lie between the words “dangerous” and “harmless” (even, “altruistic”). The Iron Giant is proof that, if an animated film is well done, it can stand the test of time.
Out in the room on August 6, 1999, The Iron Giant turns twenty-one today and continues to be one of the most beautiful cinematographic productions ever created. Produced by Warner Brosunder the direction of Brad Bird (the same director of The Incredibles, Ratatouille And Mission Impossible: Phantom Protocol), the film is freely inspired by the novel The Iron Man written by the poet Ted Hughes and has actually earned his fair share of awards and accolades (BAFTA, Satellite Award, Hugo Award and many others), although the box office figures speak for themselves: against a budget spent of about seventy million dollarsthe film received only for twenty-three million dollars.
Thanks to a marketing campaign on which it seems that a sufficient budget has not been invested to guarantee adequate sponsorship and the release to the cinema, on the same day, of The sixth sense from Shyamalan, which inevitably outclassed animated film. The cast of The Iron Giantamong other things, it boasts respectable names in its roster of voice actors, such as for example Vin Dieselwho is the iron giant, Jennifer Aniston to give voice to Annie Hughes, mother of the protagonist, while Harry Connick Jr. is Dean McCoppin, Hogarth’s friend scrap dealer.
The plot de The Iron Giant takes place in 1957, in a period of launches of satellites into orbit (the first, lo Sputnik Russian, which started the space race) and dangerous contrasts between United States and Russia, splitting the world in two, threatened by a potential new armed conflict. Thus, as satellites are launched into space from Earth, a gigantic object comes from that same sky and plunges into the waters off Maine, destroying a fishing boat engaged against the ongoing storm. The only sailor on board the boat manages to escape, but no one believes in his story of the “unidentified vehicle from Mars”.
Hogarth Hughesa nine-year-old boy who lives in the small town of Rockwell, on the other hand, he is intrigued by the fisherman’s story, although it may seem unlikely; however, he soon has the opportunity to discover firsthand the truth about the mysterious object: when the TV starts to stop broadcasting the horror film that Hogarth was watching, the child discovers that something has destroyed the antenna of the house, leaving a trail of destruction right into the woods behind the house. Once he follows the trail to the town’s power plant, Hogarth – dressed up like a soldier in search of the enemy – discovers the cause of it all: a mammoth robot, which tries to feed on the light poles while remaining in spite of itself trapped in the cables. After an escape in terror, the child overcomes his fears to retrace his steps and help the giant and, after this first, frightening episode, the two will develop a deep friendship, in which there will be other destructive “small accidents” but from which it will emerge human nature and friendly of the robot, which seems to have a soul just like humans.
Meanwhile, the United States government has received reports of a mysterious creature near Rockwell and sends its own agent to investigate: Kent Mansleywhose investigations will bring him ever closer to the discovery of the giant, which in the meantime has been hidden in the “artistic” workshop of Dean McCoppina scrap dealer who creates sculptures from pieces of iron and who becomes friends with Hogarth and the robot, feeding him with the metal present in his laboratory.
Although the attempts to hide the iron giant are quite fruitful, his escape to the city after a quarrel with Dean allows Mansley, and the US government, to arm themselves to take down the mysterious robot: he, in fact, helps two children in danger. , but his selfless gesture is mistaken for an attack and the army takes action to destroy the giant. Traditional weapons are useless – not even cannons and missiles can scratch it – if not to infuriate the robot that shows this way. its destructive side. The arrival of Hogarth will be providential to “calm” the giant and make him come to his senses, however the damage has now been done: a nuclear warhead it was launched – by Mansley, even taking the general who commands the army off guard – and is headed right on Rockwell, against the giant. In a last act full of humanity, the robot from space will launch itself in flight to intercept the nuclear device, in an ending that will leave an indelible mark on the public, full of emotion and hope.
An amazing animated film
Twenty-one years later, The Iron Giant it still remains a high-level animated product; a kind of ET from Steven Spielberg set in the 1950s, which however uses animated images to tell not only about wonderful friendship between a child and a car – more humane than those humans willing to launch a nuclear warhead, in the name of “defense” of their country; but also to show that rhetoric of patriotism against an alleged enemy that, especially in the United States, has generated more conflicts than necessary.
In this particular film, the constant threat of the “red” enemywhich takes different forms along the narrative arc: from the metaphorical one of a comic entitled The Red Menaceto the more realistic one in Hogarth’s hypothesis on the mysterious object that came from space, suggesting that it could be one Sputnik. One of the greatest fears of the Americans that for many years marked the country and kept the whole world in suspense – that of the Russians, their infiltrated spies and their weapons ready to be launched – is the basis of this tale, which however it shows the other side of the coin: that of paranoia he was born in terror of an enemy in constant ambush, which sometimes lead to a real one witch hunt.
The Iron Giant it’s also part of pop culture: just think of the parody episode in Futuramaentitled The Game of If I werein which Bender And Fry take the place of the iron giant and Hogarth (although it ends very differently from the movie), or al Ready Player One by Spielberg, in which the giant makes his appearance among the numerous quotes of the most famous characters of recent decades. But it is also and above all a story of pure and sincere friendshipfrom understanding (where adults in general appear to be deaf and blind), of empathy And toleranceas well as choices and self-determination (“You are who you choose and try to be“, Dean will say), in a crescendo of emotions that culminate in a tears-in-the-eyes ending, but finally capable of snatching a smile made of hope, for the protagonists of the film and also a little for humanity.
Happy birthday, Giant!