The Iron Giant

on August 03, 1999 by Dwayne E. Leslie
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   Set in the late 1950s, this animated family film pays homage to black-and-white serials and comic books of that era. It also references interpretations of events that have become a permanent part of history-like the Russians launching the satellite Sputnik and talks of using the A-bomb. This was a time when American minds were naive and vulnerable to images conjured from science fiction stories.
   To some living at this time in the little town of Rockwell, Maine, life goes on as usual and they feel no immediate danger-not until buildings, tractors and metal fixtures are vandalized by something that seems to be taking a bite out of their property. The bizarre incidents prompt a nine-year-old boy, Hogarth (voiced by Eli Marienthal), to investigate one night when his television antenna goes missing and he discovers big footprints leading into the woods.
   What he encounters is straight out of his sci-fi comics-a 50-foot robot (Vin Diesel) with an appetite for metal. After an electrical mishap, Hogarth saves the robot and they become friends.
   The fireball created upon the Iron Giant's landing on Earth prompts an investigation, and when a government agent (Christopher McDonald) finds evidence of the robot's existence, he believes it to be a Russian-manufactured threat to national security that must be destroyed.
   Hogarth helps the robot evade sinister forces, and teaches him adapt to his new planet. The introduction of emotions and independent thinking are added to the robot's memory bank.
   This family film is filled with humor, suspense and situations everyone can relate to, in spite of the fantastical premise. The confrontations and sacrifices made will transfix both young and old. Based on Ted Hughes'1968 story "The Iron Man," "The Iron Giant," like its eponymous android, has a warm soul-and the right mechanics to turn "Iron" into boxoffice gold. Voiced by Eli Marienthal, Vin Diesel, Christopher McDonald, Jennifer Aniston and Harry Connick Jr. Directed by Brad Bird. Written by Brad Bird and Tim McCanlies. Produced by Allison Abbate and Des McAnuff. A Warner Bros. release. Animated/Fantasy. Rated PG for fantasy action and mild language. Running time: 86 min
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