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After watching THE IRON GIANT ($25), all I can say is that there aren't enough superlatives to describe this wonderful animated modern fable. I watched this film without any preconceived notions, and walked away absolutely loving this movie. On the surface, THE IRON GIANT looks like a standard feature length cartoon designed for kids. However, once one looks a bit deeper they will uncover a rich and rewarding animated film that will appeal to adults. THE IRON GIANT has 1950ís setting is truly reminiscent of the numerous paranoid sci-fi movies that were released during the height of the cold war era. With a nod to the cinematic conventions of the 50ís, THE IRON GIANT was filmed in the CinemaScope aspect ratio of 2.35:1. THE IRON GIANT is also stylistically evocative of a 1950's Warner Bros. cartoon, utilizing the same type of character designs and color pallet that one would find in an animated short from that decade.

The plot of THE IRON GIANT is fairly simple. Without an explanation of its origins, a fifty-foot tall robot falls to Earth. While foraging for metal to feed upon, the robot happens on a power plant where it becomes caught up in high voltage cables. Before the robot can be seriously damaged, a young boy named Hogarth Hughes is able to switch off the power and save the iron giant. While the robot is an imposing figure, it displays all the innocence and wonder of a young child and is more than appreciative of Hogarth's selfless act of kindness. As the two become fast friends, Hogarth teaches the robot the concepts of right and wrong, of life and death. For a short while Hogarth feels like the luckiest kid in America, able to play with the greatest toy in the history of the world.

Of course, there is no way that the boy can keep a fifty-foot tall robot with an appetite for scrap metal a secret. Eventually, a paranoid government agent shows up to investigate sightings of the robot, which leads to an inevitable showdown with the military. THE IRON GIANT is clever, funny, and genuinely heartwarming film that actually teaches the kids a lesson in morality in such a subtle manner that they will never suspect that the movie has any educational value. Adults, of course, will find THE IRON GIANT slyly entertaining and not at all juvenile. 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 done a really nice job of bringing THE IRON GIANT to DVD. The two sided DVD offers both full screen and wide screen presentations, however too much of the movie is cropped to make the full screen version viable viewing option for anyone but a child. I have to give Warner Home Video credit for making sure that the wide screen version of THE IRON GIANT, not only restores the film's full 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio, but that the presentation is also enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. The transfer itself is practically perfect, offering a clear and very well defined image. Colors are wonderfully vibrant and are reproduced without chroma noise or distortion. Digital compression artifacts are virtually undetectable.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack has a truly first rate mix that fully takes advantage of the discrete nature of the format. There is good channel separation across the forward soundstage, and when combined with the aggressive use of split surround effects, the onscreen imagery is truly enhanced by this highly active soundtrack. Bass reproduction is very full and deep, which adds a great deal of weight to the footsteps of the fifty-foot tall robot. Additionally, the voices of the actors are well recorded and sound very natural in the mix. English subtitles have been encoded onto the DVD.

Other than a bit of full motion video and sound, the interactive menus have a fairly basic design. Through the menu system, one can access the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the DVD's extras. There is a twenty-minute "Making of" documentary, which is entertaining, but not as in-depth about the animation as I might have liked. Eddie Plattís Cha-Hua-Hua music video is also provided, as are cast filmographies and a theatrical trailer. THE IRON GIANT is also DVD-ROM enabled, utilizing web links to other supplements on the Internet.

THE IRON GIANT is a wonderful animated movie that can be enjoyed by both children and adults alike. Warner Home Video has produced a great looking and great sounding DVD that makes a worthy addition to any DVD collection. Recommended.


The Iron Giant



DVD reviews are Copyright © 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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