THE IRON GIANT
In my humble opinion, THE IRON GIANT ($20) is one of the best American made animated films of the last twenty years. A truly under appreciated gem, THE IRON GIANT is a movie I come to love more and more every time I see it. Instead of being an all too predictable kidís movie, THE IRON GIANT proves to be a truly wondrous modern animated fable that will appeal to adults because this beautifully conceived movie is not only funny and touching; it also offers an intelligently crafted story with fully developed characters. With its 1950ís setting, THE IRON GIANT is truly reminiscent of the paranoid sci-fi movies that were released during the height of the cold war era. Additionally, THE IRON GIANT tips its hat to the cinematic conventions of the 50ís, by being produced in the CinemaScope aspect ratio of 2.35:1, which helps to give the movie a truly larger than life quality. Produced by Warner Bros., THE IRON GIANT is also stylistically evocative of the 1950's era cartoons being produced by the studio, with the motion picture utilizing the same type of character designs and color pallet that one would find in an animated short from that decade.
Based upon the book The Iron Man by Edward Hughes, THE IRON GIANT tells a very simple story of a young boy who finds himself in possession of the ultimate toy. The film opens with a fifty-foot tall robot falling to Earth, without any form of explanation. Landing near a small New England town, the robot begins foraging for metal to feed upon, when it happens upon a power plant and becomes caught up in high voltage cables. However, before the surging current seriously damages the robot, a young boy named Hogarth Hughes switches off the power, thus saving the metal behemoth. Although the metal manís stature is astonishing, the robot displays all the innocence and wonder of a young child, not to mention having a genuine appreciation for Hogarth's selfless act.
Spending time together, Hogarth and the robot become fast friends, and through their games together Hogarth teaches the robot the concepts of right and wrong, of life and death. Of course, eventually reality sets in and Hogarth realizes that there is no way he can keep a fifty-foot tall robot with an appetite for scrap metal a secret, especially when a government agent shows up in town to investigate a number of robot sightings. In typical 1950ís sci-fi cinema fashion, Hogarth and The Iron Giant find themselves drawn into the inevitable showdown with the trigger-happy military. THE IRON GIANT features the vocal talents of Jennifer Aniston, Eli Marienthal, Harry Connick Jr., Vin Diesel, Christopher McDonald, James Gammon, Cloris Leachman, John Mahoney, M. Emmet Walsh and Mary Kay Bergman.
Warner Home Video has made THE IRON GIANT available on DVD in a 2.35:1 widescreen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. Warner has improved upon their terrific movie only presentation of THE IRON GIANT by providing the film with an even better looking transfer for this Special Edition. The image appears as crisp as it is possible for this type of 2D animation. Colors are very strongly rendered, although they never appear overblown, nor do they display any form of instability or fuzziness. Blacks are on the money, whites are clean and contrast is just fine for an animated feature. The elements from which the film was transferred appear very clean, without appreciable defects. Digital compression artifacts always remain in check.
THE IRON GIANT comes with a terrific sounding Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. The mix makes good use of all the outlying channels for sound effects deployment, becoming reasonably aggressive when the story warrants it. Channel separation is clean and sounds pan between channels in a convincing manner. Fidelity is excellent, with the music having a full sense of presence and the sound effects always having a compelling quality. Voices have natural warmth and the dialogue maintains complete intelligibility. The bass channel is deep and percussive, which gives a sense of weight to The Iron Giantís movements throughout the film. A French 5.1 channel track is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a nice complement of supplements. Starting things off, is an informative audio commentary that feature director Brad Bird, story department head Jeffrey Lynch, animator Steve Markowski, and animation department head Tony Fucile. Next, we have roughly eighteen minutes of deleted sequences that never made it beyond the rough animation stage in the production.
Teddy Newton: The X-Factor features a look at one of the unconventional storyboard artists behind the film. The Duck And Cover Sequence looks at an amusing educational film that is part of the world of the movie. The Voice Of The Giant spends a few minutes with Vin Diesel, who vocalized the giant. Behind The Armor puts the movie into interactive mode, allowing the viewer access to supplemental features pertinent to individual moments within the film. The Motion Gallery offers various clips from the film in different stages of competition. A theatrical trailer, plus a Brad Bird designed trailer and some Easter eggs close out the supplements.
As I stated above, THE IRON GIANT is one of the best American made animated films of the last twenty years. Thanks to Warner, the film finally seems to be getting its due on DVD- with a spiffy new presentation and some thoughtful extras. If you love animation, youíll love THE IRON GIANT. Highly recommended!
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